EurWORK European Observatory of Working Life

Public sector is focus of industrial action

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Strike activity across the EU dropped in 2014 following a crisis-related peak in 2010. However, evidence from EurWORK correspondents suggests that the more highly unionised public sector has been a focus of industrial action recently. In general, strikes have been triggered by pay freezes and cuts, as well as by other unpopular effects of fiscal tightening such as lay-offs or changed working conditions.

 

 

Introduction

While overall strike activity in the EU dropped significantly in 2014 after a crisis-related peak in 2010, evidence from EurWORK’s network of correspondents suggests that the public sector has been a focal point of protest. This has to be seen against the background of fiscal tightening, with related pay freezes and cuts, or unpopular reforms demanding lay-offs or changing working conditions. It should also be noted that the public sector has a higher unionisation rate than the private sector. It remains to be seen what impact the recently observed return to pay restoration and collective bargaining will exert on public sector labour relations in the times ahead.

During 2008 and 2013, 10% of businesses in the European Union were affected by some type of industrial action. The economic crisis had ended a period of relatively calm labour relations, with the number of lost working days peaking at 70 per 1,000 workers in 2010, compared with an average of 50 per 1,000 workers between 2003 and 2009. The most recent figures, collected by the European Trade Union Institute (ETUI), suggest that in the public and private sectors strike activity continued to fall between 2011 and 2014. An average of 33 working days per 1,000 employers were lost, well below the levels recorded during the boom time before the crisis. While there is no data-based evidence on the sectoral distribution of industrial action activity over time, evidence from Eurofound’s network of correspondents suggests that the public sector has been disproportionately affected. Around 60% of the major strikes reported by correspondents during 2014 occurred in the public sector. It needs to be stressed that data collection has not been carried out systematically this article is a compilation of the most significant events reported by correspondents in their quarterly reporting on working life. Nevertheless, while the incidents described here cannot give the full picture of industrial action in the public sector, they can indicate the essence of the activity across Europe.

Various types of workers in the public sector have a restricted right to strike because of their role in implementing public authority decisions and policies, while others provide essential services. The ILO Conventions No. 87 and No. 151 give national states discretionary powers over the right to strike in the public sector, whereby ‘no explicit mention is made of the right to strike for public servants’.

Table 1 provides an overview of public sector workers’ right to strike since 2011 across the 28 EU Member States and Norway. In 2014, Irish police won the right to strike following a ruling by the Council of Europe. In Malta, police and armed forces won the right to associate in 2014, but not the right to strike; and, in Lithuania, the 2014 changes to the Labour code also included several amendments regarding the regulation of strikes.

 

Table 1: Right to strike in the public sector, 2011

No right to strike.

AT, DK

Right to strike exists, but with major restrictions, such as monopoly union, compulsory arbitration or conciliation, restrictions on issues or content, major groups excluded.

BE, DE, EE, LU, LV, NO, SK, UK

Right to strike with minor restrictions  such as recognised union, balloting, proportionality, respect of peace obligation, only military, judiciary or police excluded (as per ILO convention).

CY, CZ, ES, EL, FI, FR, HR, HU, IE, IT, LT, MT, NL, PL, PT, SE, SI

Unrestricted right to strike

RO

Source: Author’s interpretation of ICTWSS 4.0, year 2011

However, the number of strikes reported gives only a partial picture of the industrial action which has taken place. For instance, in Sweden, where police are not allowed to strike, for three days in June 2014 officers protested about low wages by parking their police cars in public places while on duty and talking to passers-by.

The public sector is an umbrella term that includes a range of sub-sectors or industries across the EU28 and Norway. For example, the public sector in Slovenia covers areas such as education, health and public administration. However, although the majority of banks are state owned, Slovenian banks do not belong to the public sector. In all countries there is a ‘public’ aspect of the main sub-sectors studied below. A worker is considered to be employed in the public sector if the state or its representatives can be regarded as the employer and/or owner of the company, institution, organisation or service in which he or she works. For the purposes of this article, the term 'strike' refers to all industrial actions which entail work stoppages of any duration by employees during working time. It does not include other forms of disputes, such as protests, and these are not discussed in this article.

Some of the strikes reported by national correspondents lasted for several months, others for as little as one hour. Strikes have also differed in their intention, context, and impact. This article presents an overview of major strikes in the public sector between 2014 and mid-2015 and then takes a more in-depth look at public sector strike activity in various industries and sectors.

Overview of public sector strike activity

There were many strikes in Europe’s public sector in 2014. Table 1 gives an overview of the major ones that took place between 2014 and mid-2015.

Table 2: Overview of reported strikes in the public sector from 2014 to mid-2015

Sub-sector

Country and issue

General and/or occupation-wide

BE (redundancy & social dialogue)

CY (privatisation)

EL (pay & redundancy)

HR (new labour law)

IT (social & economic policies)

NO (labour law amendments)

PO (working time)

PT (pay, working time & bargaining)

Public transport

BE (reform by new government)

CY (pay & working time)

DE (bargaining)

EL (privatisation & redundancy)

FI (pay & bargaining)

FR (structural reform)

HR (redundancy & pay)

IE (pay)

MT (bargaining)

PO (privatisation)

PT (privatisation)

UK (redundancy)

Post

FI (internal transfer & new system)

 

Public broadcasting

IT (budget reform)

 

Public administration

BE (reform by new government)

DE (pay)

EL (redundancy)

IE (pay)

PO (working time)

RO (new labour law)

SK (working conditions)

UK (pay & staffing level)

Police & Fire brigade

BE (new government)

SE (pay)

UK (pension)

Welfare services

FI (privatisation)

PO (redundancy)

Education

BE (reform)

DE (pay)

EL (evaluation reform)

IE (student assessment reform)

LT (bargaining)

MT (bargaining)

NO (working time)

PO (evaluation system)

UK (pay)

Health service

BG (redundancy)

CY (pay, working conditions)

FI (pay)

EL (pay, working conditions, austerity)

SI (pay & working conditions)

PO (working time)

PT (pay & working time)

UK (pay)

Energy

BG (pay & closures)

PL (restructuring)

EL (redundancy)

SL (pay)

Research

IE (pay)

 

Other

IE National Gallery

 

Source: EurWORK quarterly reports

Public employees of various sectors in Belgium, Croatia, Greece, Ireland, Portugal and the United Kingdom were involved in a lot of strike action during 2014 and the first half of 2015. The main reasons were disputes over pay, planned privatisations and protests against reforms introduced after a change in government. Budget cuts and privatisations to reduce financial pressures on the public budget prompted strikes in several Member States, not only in the programme countries, such as Greece and Portugal, but also in the UK, where tensions were high in the aftermath of the economic crisis.

There were many strikes in the public transport sector, particularly by railway workers during 2014 and the first half of 2015. They were often caused by protests against privatisation plans proposed by the government, as well as issues around trade union recognition and inter-union rivalry. Employees of London Underground went on a 48-hour strike to protest against plans to close ticket offices and cut 950 jobs. There were also a considerable number of strikes in public administration and the education sector. While pay and working conditions were an issue in both sectors, there were several strikes in the education sector over government plans to introduce new systems to evaluate and assess pupils and/or teachers.

There were also a great many general and cross-occupational strikes between 2014 and mid-2015. According to reports by the national correspondents, eight countries experienced such strikes, lasting from two hours in Norway and Croatia to three days in Italy. In Croatia, up to 100,000 workers were involved in such action.

Main reasons for industrial action

Austerity measures

In some instances, industrial action was caused not only by particular issues but by austerity measures in general. In Portugal, public sector workers went on general strike on 13 March 2015 to:

  • protest against nominal wage cuts;
  • defend collective bargaining;
  • demand a return to a 35-hour working week;
  • protest against the law on re-qualification (rules governing lay-offs);
  • protest about cuts to welfare budgets and public service provisions.

In Belgium, a national strike affected public transport, schools, government offices, businesses and manufacturing facilities in December 2014, called in response to the newly elected government’s plans to balance its budget by raising the pension age, freezing wages and cutting public services.

Continuing cuts in the health sector in Greece and Cyprus have raised concerns about the capacity to provide adequate services. In both countries, several national strikes have demanded  adequate staffing and funding of hospitals, as well as less precarious employment and better working conditions. In Cyprus, a four-hour strike was held by all staff in public hospitals on 7 May 2015. However, the Pancyprian Union of Government Doctors (PASYKI) called off its plan to hold another 24-hour strike on 14 May 2015, after Health Minister Philippos Patsalis assured PASYKI that the government intended to meet most of its demands.

Trade union recognition and inter-union rivalry

Inter-union rivalry was an issue in at least three Member States (Germany, Malta, Finland). For instance, in June 2014 the Malta Workers Union (UHM) ordered bus drivers employed by Transport Malta to go on a four-hour strike over trade union recognition. The UHM claimed that some drivers had switched their membership from a rival union, and it now had a majority of representativeness and was entitled to sole recognition. The union withdrew its plan of further strikes after a statement by the Transport Minister, Joe Mizzi, that he was willing to meet the union.

One strike, at least, had a wider impact on the regulation of industrial actions. This happened when workers belonging to the German Train Drivers’ Union (GDL) went on strike for several days at Deutsche Bahn in the third quarter of 2014 and the first half of 2015 over a new collective agreement on pay. A major sticking point in negotiations was GDL’s demand to negotiate on behalf of other train staff, including conductors and restaurant staff, who at that time were represented by the rival railway and transport union EVG.

This incident caused significant political discussion and led to the Act on Collective Agreement Unity (Tarifeinheitsgesetz) which was passed in May 2015. Now, if there is conflict between two collective agreements negotiated by different unions at the same establishment, and this situation is challenged by one of the bargaining parties – employer or union – then the collective agreement negotiated by the trade union that has most members in the establishment applies. This legislation has provoked a wide-ranging legal debate about whether the new provisions hamper the right to strike: they allow only strikes called in support of collective agreements.

Unilateral setting of working conditions

Local government workers in Portugal went on a one-day strike after the government suspended 400 collective agreements which unions had signed with local authorities agreeing a 35-hour working week. The government had passed a law in 2013 increasing weekly working time in the public sector from 35 to 40 hours, without any pay increase. The unions sidestepped this by using a law which allows local authorities to defer from statutory working time (in Portuguese, 450 KB PDF). Nevertheless, the government argued that it is entitled to negotiate on behalf of local governments. The trade unions and municipalities see this suspension as a violation of the Portuguese Constitution and of the legal framework of collective bargaining in the public sector. A decision by the Consultative Council of the Attorney General’s Office on the government’s action is awaited.

Pay-related conflicts

During 2014 and mid-2015, most strikes reported by the correspondents were related to disputes over pay. Some employees protested about non-payment of salaries (as happened with the coal miners at Bobov Dol, Bulgaria), or about parity between different occupations or even departments (for example, the employees of the public Tyndall National Institute in Ireland), but protests mostly focused on wage freezes. UK workers in the National Health Service stopped work in two separate four-hour strikes in the last quarter of 2014 after the government decided not to implement the recommendations of the independent pay review body, and rejected alternative proposals for a pay deal.

The longest lasting strike was in Germany, where a 30-day strike in May 2015 involved tens of thousands of public employees working in kindergartens, the youth welfare service and social agencies. Trade union ver.di argued that the work of mostly female employees in the care professions receives a lot of praise but is not rewarded accordingly. The employer side said this was due to the budgetary problems of many municipalities. However, on 4 June both parties agreed to begin a dispute resolution procedure. On 23 June the mediators recommended pay increases of between 2%–4.5 % depending on occupation. The union entered into a consultation process with its members.

Uniquely, in Norway the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions (LO) and its member unions faced strike action from their own employees for the first time in November 2014. Some 300 union employees stopped work for 12 days to demand more open wage-setting procedures and access to better wage statistics. The dispute ended with the conclusion of a new collective agreement. The strike attracted considerable interest from the media and highlighted the fact that many trade unions and affiliated organisations in Norway are now large employers with increasingly professionalised employment relations and human resource policies.

Demand for better working conditions

The demand for better working conditions was also a cause of unrest, whether over working time (nurses in Portugal held a two-day strike in mid-2014 to protest against the increase of working time), work organisation (in the UK, the Fire Brigades Union staged 24-hour strikes in protest at proposals to extend the retirement age of firefighters to 60) or over new working time patterns and individual employment relations (around 100,000 workers in Croatia staged a two-hour national strike in February 2014 in protest at the new labour act and the law on casual work).

In Norway, the government proposed amendments to the Working Environment Act which would allow employers to hire staff for 12 months. The intention was to ease access to the job market for the unemployed and give businesses greater flexibility; however, the proposals also strengthened new regulations on penalties for breaching the Working Environment Act. The three peak-level trade union confederations LO, The Confederation of Vocational Unions (YS) and The Confederation of Unions for Professionals (UNIO) argued that these amendments would weaken job security and working time regulations and organised a general strike for two hours on 28 January 2015. Nevertheless, the law was passed in March 2015.

Restructuring of semi-governmental companies

Another major point at issue in several countries was the reorganisation of governmental or semi-governmental companies, often resulting in ownership being transferred from public to private stakeholders, and in large-scale collective redundancies. In at least five Member States plus Norway, governmental plans to privatise (semi) governmental services triggered disputes. Strikes over this issue occurred mainly in the public transport sector, and especially in countries (for example, Portugal, Greece and Cyprus) which are still in bailout programmes and under strict austerity plans. In February 2014, and January and July 2015, for instance, workers of semi-governmental companies in Cyprus took national, cross-sectoral strike action for one day to protest against the government’s plan to privatise a number of semi-governmental organisations. In Greece, employees of the Piraeus Port Authority held a national 24-hour strike in May 2015 demanding an end to the sale of the authority's public share capital and that of the Thessaloniki Port Authority. Greek railway workers walked out for several days in April 2014, demanding the suspension of the planned rail privatisation.

Strikes over collective redundancies occurred in Belgium, Croatia, Greece, Poland and the United Kingdom. A major dispute was triggered by the closure of several coal mines in Poland.

Activity in individual countries

Poland: Conflict in coal-mining

In January, tensions in the coal-mining industry which had emerged in the fourth quarter of 2014 escalated into a major conflict. The conflict unfolded over two phases. The first was a dispute in state-owned company Kompania Węglowa after the announcement of the closure of four loss-generating mines. An underground protest by employees of the mines quickly led to action at other mines.

When plans were announced to introduce a six-day working week, including Saturdays, workers responded with a two-day national strike. On 6 February, a mediation process produced an agreement between the company board and the unions. However there were still protests, and some riots until the Chair of coal company Jastrzębska Spółka Węglowa (JSW) resigned. Nevertheless, the board was able to enforce most of its planned measures to improve the company’s economic efficiency.

Bulgaria: Energy prices

Uniquely, there was a strike by companies in Bulgaria over energy prices. The State Commission for Energy and Water Regulation (DKER) decided to increase power prices for industrial consumers by up to 20% so that they would pay the same as domestic households. In July 2015, more than 1,000 manufacturing companies took part in an hour-long national strike to protest at this, and the plan was shelved.

Greece and Portugal: Education reform 

In Greece and Portugal, teachers went on strike when national governments proposed bringing in regular testing for teachers. In Ireland, teachers opposed government plans to change the assessment of pupils. This would mean teachers marking their own students’ work as part of their final grade at the end of their third year. Most teachers feel that assessment should be done by an external, anonymous, examiner. They withdrew their cooperation early in the year from the planned assessment reform and did not participate in any meetings connected to it. In December 2014 and January 2015, they staged a one-day strike in protest.

Commentary

Since the 2008 economic crisis in Europe, industrial action has been sparked mainly by the severe austerity measures experienced by the public sector. Significant cuts and freezes in pay and staff numbers were accompanied by requests to continue delivering essential services (education, health, transportation) or implementing public authority decisions (public administrations, justice, police). Working conditions in the public sector have worsened, and the sustainability of its services is at risk because of budgetary cuts. 

Traditionally, trade union membership has been bolstered by public sector employees, but this is no longer the case. According to information reported by EurWORK correspondents, several countries are experiencing a trend of falling trade union density.  Moreover, the size of public sector workforces has been shrinking because of continuing restructuring.

It remains to be seen whether improved economic conditions (which vary widely from state to state), combined with moves to restore pay and broaden the scope of bargaining, will have an effect on the climate of state-union social dialogue.

About this article

This article is based mainly on contributions from Eurofound’s network of European correspondents. Further resources on the public sector can be obtained from Eurofound’s European Working Conditions Survey (EWCS).

For further information, contact Christine Aumayr-Pintar, cau@eurofound.europa.eu

Annex: List of reported industrial action events

Reported industrial action events in local and regional administration

Country

When

Action and reason

BE

October 2014

Town employees of Charleroi interrupted the town council meeting to protest after possible redundancies were mentioned.

IE

Q2 2014

Employees of South Dublin County Council went on strike in a dispute over pay cuts.

FI

September 2014

Employees of the public and welfare sector in Helsinki went on a one-day strike in September 2014 to protest against the city council’s plan to transfer services provided by the public contractor Palmia to a private provider.

DE

March 2014

Federal and municipal employees went on several strikes during collective agreement bargaining rounds. An agreement, without arbitration, was reached.

PT

December 2014

Workers in local administrations went on strike for one day in protest at the delay by the government of publication of 350 collective agreements. The agreements had restored the 35-hour week. Social security employees went on a one-day strike to protest against the Portuguese government’s plan to make collective redundancies.

Reported industrial action events in central public administration

Country

When

Action and reason

EL

July 2014

Civil servants went on a one-day strike against evaluation, temporary redundancies and redundancies. The strike was ruled illegal and abusive by Administrative Court of Appeal of Athens. Archaeologists and other employees of the Greek Ministry of Culture went on a 24-hour strike to protest against dismissals. Municipal employees held a national stoppage on 16 June 2015 to oppose the award of cleaning services to private companies.

UK

July 2014

Passport workers at all eight passport office sites in the United Kingdom stopped work for one day over staffing levels and pay.

RO

30 April 2015

The National Trade Unions for the Public Administration (FNSA) organised a one-day general strike. Unions said they had not been included in the drafting of a new law on the unitary remuneration of public sector employees, expected to become law in 2016. Unions complain that about 25% of public administration employees have wages only slightly above the minimum wage, a sensitive issue which the new law should tackle.

SK

February 2015

90% of justice clerks went on a one-day warning strike to demand better working conditions.

Reported industrial action events in the education sector

Country

When

Action and reason

BE

October 2014

Teachers went on strike in October and November 2014 to fight budgetary reform measures planned by the new Belgian Government. Teaching unions maintain that the proposed measures will have a broad-reaching impact on areas such as the salaries of teachers entering the profession, salary indexation, career prospects, and pensions.

GR

Q2 2014

Teachers took industrial action against the implementation of the teachers’ evaluation system.

PT

December 2014

Teachers went on strike against having to take a test on their skills and knowledge.

IE

Dec 2014 and Jan 2015

Teachers opposed the planned changes to the Junior Cycle state examination and withdrew their cooperation early in the year from the planned assessment reform and did not participate in any meetings connected to it. In December 2014 and in January 2015, they went on a one-day strike against the changes.

LT

Nov 2014

Teachers of 100 schools went on strike due to the collective dispute over school funding and the demand for a long-term programme of wage increases. However, the different trade unions representing teachers did not agree on the right approach to solve the dispute. The strike was, therefore, criticised by other trade unions which were having talks with the Ministry of Education.

UK

March and July 2014

Teachers went on several one-day strikes due to a long-running dispute over pay and working conditions.

NO

Q2/3 2014

Teachers went on strike due to reject a new collective agreement which included new provisions on working time.

DE

June 2015

In the federal state of Hessen, 6,000 teachers (employed as civil servants) went on a one-day strike to protest against a wage-freeze.

PL

18 April 2015

A march in Warsaw of an estimated 22,000 people was led by the Polish Teachers Union (ZNP). The organisers handed a petition to the Minister of Education, demanding more public spending on education, pay rises for teachers and a stop to school closures, especially in smaller locations.

Reported industrial action events in ports

Country

When

Action and reason

HR

Oct 2014

Workers in Split went on strike for several days over pay, but an agreement was reached that partially met their demands.

CY

Feb and April 2014

Workers went on one-day strikes in Limassol and Larnarca against salary cuts, reductions in working hours and cuts in overtime and night shifts.

FI

June 2014

Dock workers at all Finnish ports went on a one-day strike to support the dock workers’ blockade of a Russian ship in the Torino harbour. The ship was blocked because of the low wages paid to the ship’s crew.

EL

7 May 2015

In Greece, the employees of the Piraeus Port Authority (PPA) held a nationwide 24-hour strike demanding an end to the sale of the public share capital of the PPA and the Thessaloniki Port Authority, or any form of privatisation of the ports, along with the hiring of staff and the signing of a collective employment agreement.

Reported industrial action events in public transport

Country

When

Action and reason

FI

Q3 2014

Electricians at VR Track went on strike for several days to demand inclusion in the electrical workers’ collective agreement instead of the railway sector’s collective agreement. In response, the Finnish Service Sector Employers’ Union PALTA decided to hold a one-day lock-out in July, targeting electricians.

HR

April 2014

Workers of the national railway company HZ Cargo went on strike for three days to protest against staff cuts. Union leaders demanded that redundancies should be carried out ‘in a just and legal way’ after a second round of failed conciliation talks with the management. The Croatian Engine Drivers' Union organised a two-hour warning strike in May to draw attention to the situation in the Croatian Railways Cargo and Passenger Transport companies. At the same time, the Railway Workers’ Union held a protest rally outside the government offices in in Zagreb. The conciliation process ended successfully with an agreement on all the important issues raised by workers in their demands.

FR

June 2014

Workers of SNCF, the national railway company, went on strike for 13 days to protest against the proposed rail reform of the government. Despite the strike, the law was adopted at the end of June, which resulted in SNCF being divided into three parts.

EL

April 2014

Railway workers were on strike for several days after failing to conclude a collective agreement. They demanded the company hire more staff and suspend planned privatisation. Collective agreements were signed in May, constituting a ‘strong institutional and legal bulwark’ against attempts by any new owners of the railway companies to make staff cuts. The employees of Urban Rail Transport SA (Electric Railway, Metro and Tram) stopped work οn 8 and 12 May 2015 to demand the hiring of new staff.

BE

October 2014

Train engineers walked out in a series of spontaneous strikes and blocked the tracks in places such as Liège and Charleroi, due to the plans by the government-owned Belgian railroad system (SNCB) to cut its annual budget, which would involve collective redundancies.

PT

April, May and June 2015

Strikes took place in the transport sector against the continuing privatisation of subsidiaries of national rail operator CP (CP Carga and EMEF) which deal with freight and rolling stock maintenance. On 21 May 2015, around 38 unions demonstrated against privatisations in Lisbon.

NO

15 June 2015

All railroad traffic was stopped for three hours as members of the Norwegian Railroad Association (Norsk Jernbaneforbund) and Locomotive Workers Association (Norsk Lokomotivmannsforbund) protested against the government’s railroad privatisation reform.

IE

Aug 2014

The workers of Irish Rail went on strike against temporary pay cuts. Some 450 workers of the National Bus and Rail union stopped work for 48 hours and 2,100 members of the Services Industrial Professional and Technical Union (SIPTU) went on strike for one day after a disagreement on the organisation of the strike. A new dialogue forum was set up to resolve the dispute.

MT

June 2014

The Union Haddiema Maghqudin (UHM) ordered a four-hour strike by bus drivers working for Transport Malta. The dispute was over trade union recognition, with UHM claiming that since several drivers had switched their trade union membership, it now had the right to claim representativeness. The union withdrew its plan of further strikes after a statement by the Transport Minister, Joe Mizzi, that he was willing to meet for talks.

PT

November 2014

Workers of the Lisbon Metro and of CP railways went on a one-day strike in November to protest against privatisation and compliance with the company agreement. There were several more strikes in April, May and June of the following year.

UK

Feb 2014/Aug 2015

Employees of London Underground went on a 48-hour strike to protest against plans to close ticket offices, resulting in the loss of 950 jobs. An interim agreement was reached and the planned second strike was called off. There were a number of high-profile underground transport (tube) strikes in early August 2015. The main issue was the proposed introduction of a 24-hour night tube service.

PT

December 2014

The personnel of the public airline TAP Portugal went on strike for four days to protest against the privatisation of TAP. At the beginning of 2014, civil aviation workers went on strike in several EU Member States to protest against the Single European Sky proposal from the European Commission. TAP pilots went on a 10-day strike (1–10 May 2015), demanding that pilots should have a share in the forthcoming privatisation. Public opinion and the other TAP trade unions were against this strike. The pilots say the government reneged on a deal dating back to 1999 under which they would receive a stake should the airline be privatised. The government estimated that the stoppage affected 300,000 passengers and cost €70 million.

Reported industrial action events in public energy sectors

Country

When

Action and reason

BG

September 2014

Coal miners in Bobov Dol stopped working for an hour in protest at government plans to close part of the power plant and at the non-payment of wages in July.

SI

July 2014

Coal miners in Velenje were on strike for 10 days demanding a sustainable price for coal, back pay, bonuses and objecting to pay cuts. Miners returned to work after a provisional agreement was struck.

SI

August 2014

Workers at public energy company Nafta Petrochem went on strike after the failure of months of negotiations with the management over back pay and unpaid social insurance contributions.

IE

November 2014

Workers at the Bord na Móna energy company went on strike when an agreed rise in wages was not paid because the company claimed workers had not reached productivity targets.

EL

April 2015

Electronics engineers at the Hellenic Civil Aviation Authority stopped work for three hours in protest at staff shortages.

PL

Jan 2015

Tension in the coal-mining industry increased from the fourth quarter of 2014, with mines being closed, collective agreements rescinded and union leaders sacked. Mediation produced an agreement in February 2015, but protests only stopped when the Chair of mining company Jastrzębska Spółka Węglowa (JSW) resigned.

Industrial action in public health and social sectors

Country

When

Action and reason

BG

May 2014

65 emergency doctors resigned when the director of the Centre of Emergency Medical Aid was made redundant. They were also protesting about their working conditions and low salary.

EL

Q1/Q2 2014

There were several strikes at public hospitals in the first quarter of 2014 and a national 24-hour strike in May as workers protested against austerity measures and demanded the abolition of Law 4250/2014 on the evaluation of civil servants. Protests continued in 2015, with five strikes in different hospitals in April and another national 24-strike in May, when health workers demanded free health care, adequate staffing and funding of hospitals, and the payment of back pay and holiday pay.

FI

November 2014

380 health care workers on the Åland Islands went on strike for 19 days when their collective agreement ran out in April, and mediation failed to help conclude a new one. However, the social partners accepted a second mediation offer and reached an agreement, including a rise in basic pay.

PT

Nov 2014

Nurses went on a two-day strike to protest against the state budget proposal for 2015, saying it undermined their attempts to return to a 35-hour week, and that it would hit professional progression and overtime pay.

UK

Q4 2014

Workers in NHS England went on two separate four-hour strikes when the government decided not to implement the pay rise recommendations of the independent pay review body and rejected alternative proposals for a pay deal.

CY

May 2015

A four-hour strike was held by all staff in public hospitals to protest over their precarious employment status, and to demand overtime pay, and the hiring of more doctors. However, the Pancyprian Union of Government Doctors (PASYKI) called off a 24-hour strike on 14 May 2015 after Health Minister Philippos Patsalis assured PASYKI that the government intended to meet most of its demands.

SI

April and June 2015

Doctors and dentists went on strike for one hour on 22 April and for one day on 28 May to demand better working conditions from the Ministry of Health, and a pay rise.

PT

June 2015

The nurses' trade union SEP organised a two-day strike in June to demand better working conditions, and protest about pay cuts, increased working time and work intensification, and the need for around 25,000 more hospital nurses.

Reported industrial action events – national or cross-sectoral public sector strikes

Country

When

Action and reason

CY

Feb/July 2015

Workers in semi-governmental companies went on strike for one day in February 2014 to protest against the government’s plan to privatise semi-governmental organisations. Strikes were also organised between January and July 2015 against the government’s decision to privatise profitable semi-governmental organisations. The most recent 24-hour strike was organised by port workers on 17 July 2015.

EL

March 2014

Civil servantsincluding hospital and teaching staff, went on strike for two days to protest against austerity measures. Some 3,000 people demonstrated in central Athens.

BE

June 2014

Public service employees went on strike for 24 hours because of staff cuts. Some 65% of employees participated in the strike, which stopped most of the country's train services.

PT

March 2015

Public sector workers went on general strike on 13 March 2015 to protest against wage cuts, defend collective bargaining, demand a return to a 35-hour week, and to protest against the law on re-qualification (rules governing lay-offs) and cuts to welfare budgets and state and public service provision.

BE

Nov/Dec 2014

Strikes were carried out in all provinces of Belgium to protest against new austerity policies and calling for more social dialogue.

IT

December 2014

Trade unions called for a strike and demonstrations in December 2014 against the government’s economic and social policies. The main focus of the protest was the government’s plan to reform the Italian labour market and the Jobs Act. The Minister of Infrastructure and Transport revoked the initial strike ban and 60% of workers took part in the three-day strike.

HR

February 2014

Workers went on a two-hour strike in February 2014 against the enactment of the new labour act and the law on casual work. Around 100,000 workers participated in the strike, including those involved in the Croatian local railways and Zagreb public transport.

EL

April 2014

A 24-hour national level strike took place in April 2014 to protest against the bail-out memoranda, the layoffs and the labour reserve. Around 20,000 protesters were present at the demonstration.

NO

January 2015

The three peak-level trade union confederations, LO, YS and UNIO, organised a general two-hour strike on 28 January 2015 in response to proposed amendments to the Working Environment Act. The amendments liberalised regulations on temporary work and working time. They increase working age from 70 to 72 years. There are also new regulations on whistle-blowing, and the penalties for breaching the Working Environment Act have been strengthened. The law was passed in March 2015.

Reported industrial action events in other public industries or organisations in public ownership

Country

When

Action and reason

IT

June 2014

Employees of the national public broadcasting company RAI went on strike for one day to protest against a €150 million cut to its budget. The government declared the strike was unlawful and some trade unions changed their minds about taking action.

IE

February 2014/May 2015

Employees at Ireland’s Tyndall National Institute, a public research institute in Cork, went on strike for one day in February 2014, and in May 2015, claiming they were being paid up to 20% less than colleagues doing comparable work at University College, Cork. The labour relations commission intervened and it was agreed that there should be a comparative study of pay rates.

IE

Q2 2014

Workers at the National Gallery of Ireland went on strike in the second quarter of 2014.

NL

Q1 2014

Employees of state-owned company Holland Casino went on strike demanding a better social plan and restructuring without further job losses.

FI

June 2014

Approximately 300 workers at Itella Logistics, the national post operator, went on strike for three days in protest at salary cuts and the transfer of 20 drivers. The dispute remained unresolved. In August, Itella workers walked out in protest at reforms to the mail sorting system. Negotiations to resolve the disagreement ended in September with 39 employees being made redundant.

UK

December 2014/February 2015

The Fire Brigades Union staged 24-hour strikes protesting at government plans to extend the retirement age of firefighters to 60 and to increase pension contributions. The FBU has also accused the government of misleading parliament over the issue of failed fitness tests and subsequent pension eligibility

 

 

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