Strikes, protests in Europe over cost of living and pay

High energy prices and mounting costs of living have already fuelled massive civil unrest, including street protests and demonstrations across European cities

Reuters
Published : 18 Nov 2022, 04:21 PM
Updated : 18 Nov 2022, 04:21 PM

European countries are facing strikes and protests due to high energy prices and mounting costs of living. Here are details of some recent and current industrial actions and demonstrations.

BRITAIN

* Postal workers at Royal Mail will strike for six days in the run-up to the busy Christmas period in a dispute over pay and conditions. Workers will also strike on Black Friday.

* Tesco, one of Britain's largest private-sector employers, is offering its staff advances on their pay in the latest sign of the distress arising from a worsening cost-of-living crisis.

Some 280,000 of the supermarket chain's workers will be able to receive up to 25% of their contractual pay early if they pay a small fee.

* Trade union Unite said more than 700 workers at Bakkavor's food manufacturing factory in Lincolnshire will strike from late November until new year over pay, which the union said would hit Christmas food supplies to supermarkets Sainsbury, Tesco and Marks and Spencer.

* Pay awards by British employers held at a 30-year high of 4% in the three months to October, well below annual inflation of more than 11%, data from human resources company XpertHR showed.

* More than 70,000 university staff at 150 British universities will strike for three days in November over pay, working conditions and pensions, the University and College Union (UCU) said on Nov 8.

* Workers at British packaging group DS Smith, whose customers include Amazon, have voted overwhelmingly to go on strike in a dispute over pay, the GMB union said on Nov 7.

* Nurses in Britain will go on strike, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said on Nov 5, adding that its members had faced a decade of real-terms pay cuts and that the ballot over the last four weeks was the biggest in its 106-year history.

* Train drivers working for London Overground have suspended strike action planned for Nov 26, the trade union representing them said.

Drivers working for 11 other train operators across Britain will still walk out on Nov 26 in an ongoing dispute over pay.

* Hundreds of workers at London's Heathrow airport will walk out in the run-up to the soccer World Cup this month over demands for better pay, Britain's Unite union said on Nov 4.

The 700 workers - involved in ground-handling, airside transport and cargo, and employed by Emirates Group's airport services subsidiary dnata and Menzies - will strike for three days starting from Nov 18.

* Britain's biggest domestic bank Lloyds has offered UK staff a minimum 2,000 pounds ($2,242) pay rise, a source with knowledge of the talks told Reuters on Nov 3, as lenders and employees across the sector begin annual pay talks that could see wage bills soar.

* A British workers union said on Nov 1 it had secured a 12.5% pay deal for 1,000 beer delivery drivers from logistics company GXO, cancelling strikes that were planned in the run-up to the soccer World Cup finals.

GERMANY

* Germany's largest trade union agreed on Nov 18 a below-inflation pay deal in a powerhouse region, setting the benchmark for 3.9 million metal and electrical sector workers nationwide.

The accord, which comes after the IG Metall union called for an 8% pay rise, would have been considered exceptionally generous until recently but is now below inflation, which was 11.6% last month in Germany, Europe's largest economy.

* Trade union Verdi said on Nov 18 it had reached a wage agreement with energy company RWE for its roughly 18,000 employees that includes one-off 3,000 euro payments and an increase in salaries of at least 6% from Feb 1.

* Lufthansa and the UFO union have reached an agreement to increase the salaries of 19,000 cabin crew members, the German flagship airline said.

* German carmaker Audi is in favour of offering employees one-off tax-free payments instead of permanent wage increases, its human resources director said.

FRANCE

* The UNAC and SNGAF trade unions said they were calling for strike action over work conditions at Air France during the Christmas holidays from Dec 22 to Jan 2.

* Around 45% of France's oil refining capacity remained offline on Nov 2 following strike action last month, but supply was set to improve, with one major refinery back on stream and another due to return to full capacity by the end of the week.

* France's EDF said on Oct 27 it had formally signed a wage agreement for its workers in the country with all unions present at the company.

SPAIN

* Thousands of Spaniards packed Madrid's landmark Plaza Mayor square on Nov 3 to demand higher pay, in the country's first mass protest since the start of the cost of living crisis.

* Workers at Azul Handling, the ground handling company servicing Ryanair in 22 Spanish airports, called off a plan to hold several 24-hour strikes between Oct 28 and Jan 8 to demand better working conditions, union USO said on Oct 28.

* A group representing some of Spain's truck drivers said on Nov 15 it was suspending an indefinite strike a day after it started, claiming its members had suffered a "relentless harassment campaign" from some officials, rival unions and media outlets.

Hundreds of truck drivers belonging to the unofficial Platform for the Defence of Transport, who brought Spain to a halt earlier this year, had begun a new strike on Nov 14, demanding changes to road freight rules and protesting the cost of living.

* A union group representing shop assistants at fashion retailer Zara has called a two-day strike over pay during the "Black Friday" sales on Nov 24 and Nov 25 in stores in the company's home town of A Coruna in northern Spain.

Regional union group CIG, which is also planning protests near Zara owner Inditex's global headquarters in Arteixo, wants an increase of 500 euros a month by 2025.

PORTUGAL

* Thousands of Portugal's doctors, nurses, teachers and civil servants walked off the job on Nov 18 to demand wage increases amid rampant inflation, challenging the majority Socialist government a week before a final vote on the 2023 budget.

* Workers at Volkswagen’s Autoeuropa car plant - one of Portugal's top exporters - will go on strike in the first two hours of each of the four shifts on Nov 17 and 18 to demand an extraordinary pay rise due to galloping inflation, and unions do not rule out widening the strike if their demands are not met. The company is only offering a one-off payment of 400 euros ($402) in November.

AUSTRIA

Austrian metal workers secured on Nov 4 an annual pay rise of more than 7% on average, above the 6.3% inflation rate for the negotiating period. The negotiations are seen as a bellwether for other sectors in Austria, which has a strong tradition of collective bargaining and annual negotiated pay increases that generally avert the threat of strikes.

Toufique Imrose Khalidi
Editor-in-Chief and Publisher