Socialist Worker

Battle against austerity hots up across Europe

Issue No. 2221

Women hospital workers march through Paris during France’s general strike last week  (Pic: Photothèque Rouge/JMB)

Women hospital workers march through Paris during France’s general strike last week (Pic: Photothèque Rouge/JMB)


A new round of general strikes is taking place in Europe against attempts to make workers’ pay for the economic crisis.

In France, millions of workers will join demonstrations this Saturday and take part in a day of strikes on Tuesday 12 October as a battle over pensions comes to a critical point.

A day of mass strikes and demonstrations on Thursday of last week was the biggest and most militant yet.

Around three million people took part in the protests—there were more marches than during the last walkout on 7 September and more of a fighting spirit.

Unions estimated that 300,000 marched in Paris, 220,000 in Marseille, 120,000 in both Toulouse and Bordeaux and 36,000 in Lyon.

Strikes hit the public sector hard. But there were also significant strikes in parts of the private sector.

Workers are angry that the right wing government is pushing through a rise in the minimum retirement age to 62.

And to get a full state pension many workers will have to stay in employment until they are 67.

The key question being debated now is whether to extend the strikes beyond one day into a movement that squeezes the bosses and the government much harder.

The pension changes have already passed the lower house of the French parliament and are now going to the upper house—the Senate.

Significant sections of workers are backing a longer general strike or groups of workers coming out one after another.

The chemical workers’ section of the CGT union federation says, “We have no choice but to tighten the movement to improve the balance of forces, including new strikes.”

Meanwhile, workers at five Total refineries continued their strike for a further 24 hours on Friday of last week in order to squeeze supplies and step up the pressure on the bosses.

On the same day protesters blocked roads in some areas.

Union leaders must be pushed to go all out for victory.

Meanwhile a general strike was set to take place in Spain as Socialist Worker went to press.

The unions are protesting against cuts similar to those planned by the Tory-led government in Britain.

Axe

But in Spain the axe-wielder is a Labour-type government that previously promised it would “never make workers pay for the crisis”.

Jesús Castillo, a rep in the Andalusian Workers’ Union at the University of Seville, told Socialist Worker about the background to this Wednesday’s strike.

He said, “It comes against the brutal neoliberal attacks being implemented by the Spanish Socialist Party government.

“In May the government, under pressure from the IMF, the European Union and market speculators, took off its

worker-friendly mask and turned towards austerity.

“It froze pensions, cut jobs and public services, carried out privatisations, slashed public sector wages and made it cheaper and easier to sack people.

“It has also attacked pensioners and the unemployed—whose numbers have doubled during the crisis to one in five of the population.

“The radical unions have been calling for a national general strike for months and calling regional ones where we are strong, such as in Andalusia in the south and the Basque Country in the north.

“The grassroots of the large unions pushed more and more for a general stoppage until it was finally called.

“The strike is a start, but we will need more mobilisations so there is a just solution to the crisis.

“Years of betrayals and demobilisation of members by the bureaucrats running the major unions have weakened the chances of this general strike being fully successful.

“The decision to delay holding the strikes until after the summer has reinforced this.

“Even so, millions of workers will stop working and will take to the streets to demand that the rich pay for their own mess.”


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