Workers Struggles: Europe, Middle East & Africa

6 June 2014


German Amazon workers walk off job

The Verdi trade union called workers out on strike this week at Amazon’s distribution centres in Bad Hersfeld and Graben. At the end of last week, over 600 staff at Amazon centres is Bad Hersfeld and Leipzig walked off the job.

Amazon employs 9,000 full time staff at its 9 distribution centres in Germany as well as an additional 14,000 seasonal workers.

Amazon staff are seeking a pay rise of around five percent in line with an agreement signed by Verdi and other mail order companies in Germany. The company classifies its staff as logistics workers and claims their pay rise of two percent is in line with other logistic workers.

Irish airline workers hold further strike

Last Friday, Aer Lingus cabin crew workers represented by the Impact trade union held a 24-hour strike and picketed Dublin, Cork and Shannon airports. The action was part of a long-running dispute with the airline over roster patterns.

Cabin crew are demanding an end to their current erratic roster patterns for a fixed pattern roster of five days working followed by three days off, in line with Aer Lingus pilots. The company says this would be unworkable and would lead to 300 job losses.

Swedish rail strike

Rail workers in Southern Sweden working for Veolia, began a strike Monday. They are members of the Swedish Union for Service and Communications Employees (SEKO). The union says Veolia had sacked 250 employees only to rehire them under worse conditions.

Protest by Bulgarian medics

Some 100 doctors who work at the Emergency Care Unit in the Bulgarian capital Sofia held a protest in the city on Monday. They were protesting the dismissal of the emergency unit’s director, Georgi Gelev and his deputy, Angel Angelov.

The previous week, the medics announced their intention to resign en masse.  Amongst their grievances are low pay, staff shortages, poor management and chaos following a change in the emergency number procedure.

Dutch parcel courier workers’ strike

Half of the 60 couriers working for American-based United Parcel Service (UPS) at their Amsterdam premises came out on a 24-hour strike last Friday. They are represented by the union FNV Bondgenoten and are seeking a new one-year collective labour agreement which would include a three percent pay increase.

Ukraine peat cutters protest

Last Friday, peat cutters picketed the office of the General Prosecutor of Ukraine and the Ministry of Energy and Coal Industry of Ukraine. They were protesting the poor working conditions in the industry.

Trade union calls off strike at Heinz plant in Wigan, England

This week, theUnited Road Transport Union (URTU) called off a planned four-day strike of workers at Heinz’s plant in Wigan, north west England. Staff had been demanding a pay increase for around a year as the majority were paid only the lowly national minimum wage rate of £6.31.

The URTU had previously called for an increase in its members pay to £7.45, in line with the rate of the so-called UK Living Wage.

The URTU members work for Wincanton Ltd to carry out work for HJ Heinz within the Re Pack department at the Heinz’s Kitt Green factory and adjoining National Distribution Centre.

Had the action not been called off, 60 employees from the plant’s Re Pack department were to have struck. Action over a further three weeks had also been proposed. Workers had voted 97 percent in favour of industrial action after a 12-month campaign.

With the strike set to go ahead on June 2, it was called off at the last minute after an agreement between the company and the URTU, with no details of the settlement announced. Brian Hart, national officer at URTU, said, “The company made a fresh proposal to our members, we held an emergency meeting and the offer was unanimously accepted. We therefore withdrew the proposal for strike action.”

French rail unions strike threat

The CGT-Cheminots and the SUD-Rail unions have threatened a 24-hour strike for June 10. The strike may be extended. They are protesting government plans to reunify the train operating company SNCF with the rail infrastructure company Reseau Ferre de France (RFF). The unions agree with the reunification of the two companies, separated since 1997, but claim that the proposals do not go far enough. They are also protesting the amount of debt with which the companies are saddled.

Cinema staff in London set to strike for sixth time

Staff at the Ritzy picture house in Brixton, London are due to strike on Saturday. It will be their sixth strike. They are demanding to be paid the so-called London living wage rate of £8.80 ($15) per hour. They are members of the BECTU union.

The union had expected to hold talks with Ritzy management on Wednesday of this week at which they expected them to make an offer which would have seen all Ritzy staff being paid at £8.80 ($15) an hour by October next year. However, the company reneged on the offer. The strike will proceed on Saturday.

Middle East

Israeli broadcasting workers oppose closure

The Israeli government is proposing a bill which would lead to the closure of the Israel Broadcasting Authority (IBA) and its radio and television channels. It would lead to the loss of 2,000 jobs if the plan goes ahead. The IBA staff, members of the Engineering Union, began an all-out strike on Monday to protest the proposed closure.

Egyptian chemical workers protest

Workers at the Suez International Nitrate Company (SINCO) continued their protest this week against the company’s dismissal of nine SINCO staff last Thursday. Seven of the nine dismissed were leading members of the union. They had been dismissed by a newly-appointed manager.

Workers protest Iran Tire

Employees at Iran Tire began a protest last Thursday against layoffs, wage cuts and an enforced increase in hours. The working day has been increased from eight to 12 hours a day but with a cut in pay. They are also protesting the laying off of staff with no redundancy payments.

Jordanian power workers protest pay arrears

Staff employed by the Jordanian Electric Power Company (JEPCO) carried out a sit-down protest in front of parliament on Sunday. They were protesting delays in payment of their May salaries.

Strike threat by Lebanese public-sector workers

Public school teachers and civil servants have vowed to go on strike Saturday 7 June if the government does not agree to a pay increase by Friday 6 June. The Union Coordination Committee (UCC) has conducted a two-year campaign in support of a pay increase. The UCC has called for a boycott of public examinations as part of the proposed action.


Strike by South African shoemakers

Ten-thousand South African shoemakers, members of the National Union of Leather and Allied Workers, came out on strike Monday calling for a minimum pay increase of 7.5 percent across the board.

The industrial action involved 164 footwear employers across many cities of South Africa. The footwear workers also want their employers to establish a fund to train staff in new technology in the event of machinery being introduced replacing their work.  

Council workers in Zimbabwe strike over wage arrears

Workers at Chitungwiza, a dormitory town in Harare, Zimbabwe came out on strike Tuesday over unpaid wages. The Zambian Urban Council Workers Union chairman said they needed their wages to survive.

Angry employees rallied outside the town clerk’s office demanding that he follow through on a Labour Court judgement from last year ordering the council to pay outstanding wages. The union said it will render the town ungovernable if the arrears are not paid.  

Ghanaian oil workers strike

Oil workers at Africa Oilfields Services, Ghana have gone out on strike demanding a salary increase. They are demanding a wage of CHc400 ($132) a month.

Their union, the Transport Petroleum and Chemical Workers Union of Ghana has made several unsuccessful attempts to meet with the company. Richard Hanson, a regional officer for the union said it was more than a year since the company had met with them.

Namibia airline workers strike put on hold

Airline workers employed by Air Namibia went out on strike on Friday, but the strike was suspended by the union later that day and put on hold until June 13 with staff returning to work on Saturday. The strike, which had been adjudged legal by the high court, was suspended to allow talks between management and union over a regrading claim.

The Namibian Cabin Crew Union is complaining that management is not keeping the union informed on proceedings as had been agreed when the strike was called off.  The cabin crew workers are demanding to be paid the prevailing wage of safety officers.

Sit-in protest at Gambian newspaper

The Times of Gambia workers are carrying out a sit-in at the newspaper after going without pay for three months. They have lived with uncertainty over their pay for the last three years at the government owned paper.

Staff at the Times are also demanding the end to arbitrary transfers of workers previously involved in sit-ins at their workplace. The non-payment of wages has led to workers being evicted from their homes and their children losing school places.

Nigerian doctors strike

Resident doctors throughout Nigeria went on a three day warning strike on Monday. Amongst their demands were for payment of outstanding wages and allowances, for reintegration into the Integrated Personal and Payroll system and to protest the non-implementation of the Consolidated Medical Salary Structure. Specialists including orthopaedic doctors are on strike alongside the resident doctors.

In a separate dispute, hospital staff at Lagos University Teaching Hospital began an indefinite strike on Monday.


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