Socialist Worker

Europe’s workers reject being made to carry the burden

Bosses and governments across Europe are attempting to drive through policies to make everyone work longer and get paid less. But they are facing resistance from the workers’ movement. As the struggle rises, so does the discussion of how best to

Issue No. 2207

Italy—are strikes the way to win?

Millions of public and private sector workers were to strike across Italy on Friday of this week.

The CGIL, the country’s biggest union, has called public sector workers out on a one-day strike.

Private sector workers were to join them for four hours.

The workers are striking against a brutal programme of cuts from Silvio Berlusconi’s right wing government.

This will slash £20 billion from public spending.

The CGIL’s slogan is, “Everything on our shoulders? NO.”

There is deep disaffection with the government’s support for the rich and rampant corruption.

But the mainstream and radical left have failed to channel these frustrations.

Some union leaders are also holding back the fight. The other main unions, the CSIL and the UIL, have offered little criticism of the cuts and are refusing to strike alongside the CGIL.

And even Guglielmo Epifani, the CGIL leader, made a speech at a union-led demonstration in Rome last month praising other European leaders for cutting “fairly”.

This will be news to workers across the continent!

Elena Francessco, a school teacher, told Socialist Worker, “I think we have to do more.

“It is good that we came out for one day in March but just to repeat that now is not enough.

“People have to fight harder before it is too late. This country is in pieces.”

France—how to stop pension cuts?

French workers in all the main union federations were set to hold a day of strikes and demonstrations on Thursday of this week over attacks on pensions.

Organisers said that some 50 separate marches would take place across France.

Right wing president Nicolas Sarkozy has announced a rise in the minimum retirement age to 62. And to get a full state pension workers will have to stay in employment until they are 67.

Workers’ contributions are also rising.

Thursday’s protests follow another set of strikes and demonstrations at the end of May.

Activists are now pressing for a speedy follow-up.

“We should not wait until the middle or end of September for the next action,” a spokesperson for the left wing Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste told Socialist Worker.

“We don’t just need a successful day of protests. We need the sense of a series of actions.

“In some parts of France activists have ‘Mondays in the sun’, where they meet and hold actions each Monday throughout the summer.

“We need more of those sort of initiatives to achieve a general strike—extended action that freezes the economy until we win.”

Greece—after the general strikes

Greece is heading for its fifth one day general strike this year on Tuesday of next week.

The Labour-style Pasok government is pushing through huge public spending cuts and attacks on workers’ living standards.

The European Union and the International Monetary Fund bail-out fund of 110 billion euros is dependent on hard austerity policies.

But workers’ resistance is increasing the pressure on the government.

“Next week’s general strike will be against the pension reform bill, which is beginning to go through parliament,” said Panos Garganas, the editor of the Workers Solidarity newspaper in Greece.

“The unions are planning to hold another general strike when the bill is heard before the full parliament.

“There is intense speculation that a number of Pasok MPs will not vote for the bill, which has been delayed.

“There is even some speculation that the government will fall. It is a month since the last general strike, but it has not been quiet. Transport workers in Athens have held a number of strikes, while doctors and teachers have protested and taken other action.

“Rail workers were to hold a three-day national stoppage this week against privatisation, with two days set for next week.

“The ‘stabilisation programme’ is cutting the deficit but making the recession worse, according the latest figures.

“Some 10 billion euros of the bail-out money is going to go to the banks in an attempt to stabilise them.

“Many on the left are arguing that we need more action like that of the transport worker, and a 48-hour general strike when the pension reform bill is debated.

“There is also a debate on the left about the need to not pay the debt, nationalise the banks and have an anti-capitalist break from the EU.”

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Tue 22 Jun 2010, 22:49 BST
Issue No. 2207
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