Militant unions are wreaking havoc across Europe as workers are driven out of the workplace and onto the streets.
Despite ongoing strikes in the UK, with some form of almost daily walkout in the past month, and more NHS, teacher and railway strikes planned for the coming weeks, the chaos is not not unique to Britain.
Whether it’s a nationwide strike in France against pension reform or union strikes in Italy and Spain, industrial action is gripping European economies.
Unions are pushing workers en masse to demand better wages and working conditions.
FRANCE: People gather to demonstrate against pension reform in Paris, France on January 19, 2023
SPAIN: Doctors and other healthcare workers, on strike for nearly two months, gather outside the Ministry of Health for a protest demanding higher wages and better working conditions as they hold up banners in Madrid, Spain on January 15, 2023
PORTUGAL: Thousands of teachers from all over the country demonstrate, after several days of partial strike, to demand better working conditions and higher salaries at Praca do Comercio in Lisbon on January 14, 2023
GREECE: Protesters run from tear gas as they clash with riot police, during a demonstration marking a 24-hour general strike, in Athens, Greece, November 9, 2022
ITALY: Hundreds of workers from the former Ilva in Taranto demonstrate in front of the Ministry of Enterprise, to obtain answers on the Acciaierie d’Italia group, January 19, 2023
In France, nationwide strikes are taking place to protest against plans by President Macron’s government to reform pensions and raise the retirement age from 62 to 64.
More than a million people marched in France yesterday as part of the nationwide labor protest, disrupting public transport, school and much of the country’s civil service.
Some of the strikers clashed with police, with the worst unrest taking place in Paris around the Place de la Bastille. Protesters threw bottles, trash cans and smoke grenades at police officers who responded with tear gas and charged to disperse the troublemakers,
The far-left CGT union said there had been more than two million people at protests across France, and 400,000 in Paris alone.
Militant unions have scheduled a new strike day for January 31.
The current retirement age of 62 in France is one of the lowest in the EU, and workers would have to contribute another two years to receive a full pension under the new schemes.
Thousands of people took part in a demonstration against the pension reform in Paris, France
President Macron said he welcomed “democratic protests”, but said any riots would be met with “the full force of the law”.
Anarchists calling themselves ‘Black Bloc’ have been accused of infiltrating a planned march, then turning on officers
Chaos has also gripped Spain, where some healthcare workers have been on strike since November.
Doctors, nurses and others working in the health sector are protesting against conditions and facilities, privatization policies and demanding higher salaries.
Just like in the UK, disruptions to the health service mean patients are seeing their appointments canceled as industrial action continues.
Throughout January, the already protracted strike intensified as thousands of sloganeering protesters swept through the streets of Madrid.
Unions have called on Spain’s conservative government to increase investment in the health sector and scale back plans to privatize parts of the system in favor of universal service.
Militant unions have announced further dates across the country where medical professionals will come out again later this month.
Doctors and other healthcare workers gather outside the Ministry of Health for a protest demanding a pay rise, Madrid, Spain, January 15, 2023
Strikes are spreading across all sectors in Spain, with aviation and industrial movements also hitting the Spanish economy hard.
Despite a year of ongoing talks, hundreds of air traffic controllers are set to strike for five days, bringing the tourism sector to a standstill at 16 airports in Spain.
With tourism being such an important part of the country’s economy, continued industrial action is set to cause even more chaos in Spain.
Across the border in Portugal, strikes have also increased.
This week, unions pulled teachers out of classrooms to begin 18 days of industrial action. The strikes will continue on working days until February 8.
Some eight militant unions co-ordinated industrial action together, with strike days alternating successively between different regions.
Teachers who are members of the STOP union have been on strike since mid-December.
As schoolchildren find themselves without their teachers, the unions are demanding that the Portuguese government abandon its education policy and sack the Minister of Education, while easing teachers’ workloads and increasing salaries.
France’s violent national strike reflected something of the chaos that gripped Greece in November.
Strikes have paralyzed Greece as tens of thousands took to the streets to demand higher wages.
It was the second national strike last year, as disgruntled protesters led by militant unions marched towards the parliament in Athens. The protest has been described as the biggest since the Greek public debt crisis.
Some of the strikers clashed with riot police as they threw petrol bombs at officials.
Rather than the national strikes seen in France and Greece, industrial action remained local throughout Italy.
Instead of significant disruption at the national level, strikes have proven difficult at the local level.
Rome’s public transport operator brought the capital to a halt while hundreds of steel workers in Taranto went on strike over layoffs at the partly state-owned steel company.