Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Woop! UK and France gripped by strikes

Both France and the UK have seen massive strike action today.

It looks like the UK public sector strikes over pensions are very solid with more than a million workers out on strike.

The BBC reports solid action, Reuters does as well. Local news seems very clear that the strike is solid right across the country. For example Swindon Evening Advertiser, The Belfast Telegraph, Daily Post (Wales), Evening Standard (London), Manchester Evening News, The Herald (Scotland), Norfolk Eastern Daily Press and Indymedia has some excellent regional reports

Later piece from the BBC pensions strike bites across UK

Pension rights are being eroded all over the world as part of a concerted employers offensive. In the US they are proposing the privatisation of social security - so there wont be any problems there then.

In Australia it became compulsory for workers to pay into a private pension in the 90's, and despite the fact that unions dropped pay claims at the time to enhance the pension package its now believed that these pensions will not provide a proper income for those who retire on them.

Even Germany, the first country in the world to have old age pensions they have increased retirement age (to 67) increased the employee's contributions and they've ended the link between earnings and pensions.

Whilst in France there is a General Strike against the proposed new laws (CPE) stripping young workers of their rights creating a generation of "throw away workers". More than 100 rallies will be held right across the country in the latest development of this ongoing struggle (see John Mullen's article) which have seen strikes, demonstrations and, of course, rioting. See Student Power (BBC) Last week something like a million people took to the streets across France and today's action has had a clear and significant national impact.

BBC's enthusiastic report on what's happening in France here reporting huge turnouts, According to AFP (sort of a French Reuters) as many as three million people are involved in the demonstrations - blimey!

The lesson is clear - whilst the employers offensive against workers' rights is an international affair our resistance can become international too, and the more we spread that resistance the greater the chances we can really push the neo-liberals back.


Jim Jay said...

Check out Labournet which has begun compiling a comprehensive list of reports.

Labourstart can also be pretty good.

Sue McPherson said...

Regarding these happenings in France and the UK today, 28/03/06, on matters of work and pensions, I don't see the problem as being as clear as simply being employers against workers, and workers taking to the streets to fight back. That's just one way of dealing with it, when workers see the need to act quickly to resist employers' efforts to take job security away from young workers and implement regulations to force workers to work to age 65. I can't speak for what the younger workers are going through, but I know it can be difficult to get and keep good jobs, when there is so much competition. Some older workers, internationally, who are currently being made to retire at the age of 65 have been fighting for the right to end mandatory retirement and for the right to work longer than age 65. And there are some workers, for instance, teaching and research staff at universities in England, who get to work to age 67 and like it that way. When it comes to retirement, and pensions, and the right to continue to work past a certain age, there are many different points of view. I have placed some of these perspectives, as expressed in the life stories of men and women I have interviewed, on my website, Diversity in Retirement, in the section The Dilemma of Mandatory Retirement. These men and women, who have shared their perspectives and own experience on some of these issues, are from Canada, the UK, and the US. So, for another approach to looking at these issues and trying to understand the complexity of them, do take a look at the website, http://www.diversityinretirement.net . Sue McPherson

Jim Jay said...

The next strike days in the pensions dispute have been announced.

Here's the BBC story

"Union officials say council staff in the south of England will strike on 25 April and those in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland will walk out on 26 April.

Workers in the north of England and the Midlands will strike on 27 April, they say."

John Mullen said...

The French governments aim is to turn the present crisis into a decisive trial of strength. Like Thatcher managed with the miners strike of 1984, they want to pull off a victory which will demoralize the workers movement for over a decade. The tsakes are very high. For the moment there is remarkable unity on the Left - from Blairite to revolutionary. Next Tuesday's strike action will be decisive. It has to be said though that union leaders are not encouraging the day of action to go any further and turn into a real general strike.
John Mullen

Jim Jay said...


we're getting reports here about Chirac giving concessions to the movement - although in a slightly weird way.

He's saying he'll pass the law and then ask no one to use it and they'll then abolish some of the controversial bits.

Understandably people don't trust him - but has it given the movement confidence to see the opposition waver like that?

AN said...

It is probably worth saying that where I work (private sectro, engineering) I have encountered very littlle sympathy for the strike, and some hostility to it - and this from generally lefty sorts and union members. (All of us are expecting to work until at leats 65 any way)

No obvioulsy i have argued againt it, and because I have made it my business to be informed on the issue I have managed to explain the strikers case.

But generallly I don't think the public sector unions have got their message over. At one level that doesn't matter if they feel they can force a change from government thorugh industrial methds, but of they are relying on public opinion, then the case needs to be made much better.

Jim Jay said...

What would be a well made case then?

Currently the media portray the motives for the dispute (when choosing to be charitable) as the government breaking a contract with employees.

I suspect something that really needs to happen is to counter the argument over the idea that the private sector workers have it bad so public sector workers should do to.

Personally I'd say that if private sector workers want better pensions then if this dispute is lost they lose all hope - if this dispute wins then they have a fighting chance of improving their retirement conditions.

Also does it all stop at this attack? It seems unlikely. If one set of workers have their conditions lowered to the worst end of the market, surely the next step is to increase the pension age for everyone.

A victory for one is a victory for all?

Sue McPherson said...

There are many ways people can work towards getting their point across. If anyone would like to be interviewed, by email, and their life story placed on my website, Diversity in Retirement, I would be happy to. The idea is to have the life story, with an emphasis on their thoughts and concerns about retirement or experience of it, set alongside others, who may be approaching the subject from a different point of view. Names of the participants are included. This is the link to the Dilemma of Mandatory Retirement theme.