The general trend, in recent decades, is to strike less and less, however, strikes continue to be a crucial space for unions, which also use them as a potential threat.
Among the countries that have no intention of waiving the right to strike is Francewhich only three years ago registered the longest strike of its modern era.
Almost two months of strike
At the beginning of 2020, the hexagon broke a record with more than 42 days of strike in public transport to protest against the pension reform of President Emmanuel Macron, which plans to overcome the 42 different pension schemes in favor of a universal system and raise the age for leaving work from 62 to 64 years.
It is the longest strike in modern times in France: the protest began on December 5, 2019 and lasted for almost two months. Involving various sectors of the transalpine economy, (on January 8 the lawyers went into action, on January 25, the firefighters).
The COVID-19 pandemic put an end to it, otherwise, according to the governor of the Bank of France, it would have weighed down French economic growth by 0.2% at the end of the first four months of 2020.
Good co-management between the union and the industry
In Germanylocal protests, locally coordinated by the powerful German trade union I.G. Metalldid not take the form of a general and federal strike, although the union won the largest wage increase (8%) since 2008 for some 3.9 million employees in the automotive, metallurgical and electrical industries.
This demand was motivated, in the first place, by the need to face the increase in inflation. The sector remains the backbone of the eurozone’s strongest economy and a benchmark for wage agreements in other sectors.
IG Metall leader Joerg Hofmann described the agreement as the result of good co-management between the union and the industry.
“Strikes have followed a downward trend in recent decades in all the countries of the global North, with periods of intense conflict in some countries (such as France), especially due to reforms of important institutions, such as pensions,” explains Roberto Pedersini, Professor of Economic Sociology at the University of Milan. “These are, therefore, ‘political’ strikes, since the counterparts are the governments and their reform initiatives.
It is the case of Italy. Italy also has a strong trade union history, but strikes are less used, most often reduced to a day of national protest denouncing government policies. As happened on December 16.
The general secretary of the CGIL, Maurizio Landini, pointed out on that occasion that Europe “has given the go-ahead to the government’s economic maneuver because Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and the Minister of Economy, Giancarlo Giorgetti, have made a more austere budgetary maneuver what Europe itself was asking for”. At the same time, however, companies with large profits are not being asked to contribute more to taxes.
A continental scale strike
Austerity in Europe: We haven’t heard these two words together in a long time, since at the beginning of the last decade the countries of the southern periphery of the eurozone had to deal with financial laws that rhymed with austerity.
On November 14, 2012, for the first time in European history, a general strike was held in protest against Brussels policies in several European countries (among others, France, Italy, Cyprus, Malta, Greece and Portugal).
Called by the unions of Spain and Portugal, and therefore initially called the Iberian strike, it was the first European general strike in European history.
Roberto Pedersini continues by telling Euronews that “the recent strikes, even in the United Kingdom, are somewhat different, we could talk about outsourcing of the strike. The protest has involved third parties, users who pay the costs of the interruption of services. Transport Health, public administration are quite sensitive sectors, and often a small number of workers on strike can cause major disruptions in services: the impact of the action is amplified.”
Source: Euronews Español