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Labor News: EUROPE ERUPTS!

Europe has now become a battleground between privatizing national governments and downsizing corporations on the one side and a growing militancy in the trade unions on the other.
In a message dated 11/28/2002 7:45:56 AM Eastern Standard Time,  ericlee@labourstart.org writes:
Europe erupts
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For a long time, Europe has been one of the quieter places in the world for trade union news.

The number of work days lost to strike action in a country like Britain seemed to be in historic decline.

While LabourStart was reporting on general strikes in places like South Korea, there seemed to be little to report in smug and prosperous Europe, with its 'social market economy' and powerful, entrenched trade unions.

But no more.

Europe has now become a battleground between privatizing national governments and downsizing corporations on the one side and a growing militancy in the trade unions on the other.

Last week, LabourStart has been focusing attention on a number of dramatic developments across the continent:

* Britain: The second national firefighters strike -- and this time, some of the key trade union leaders in the country talked about a fight not just between the union and the government, but between all unions and the government. At the same time as the firefighters walked out, we had a major teachers strike and local council worker strikes as well.

* France: Truckers, railway, subway and bus workers, air traffic controllers, nurses, civil servants, postal workers, telecoms, radio and TV workers -- the list seems endless as strikes, blockades and street demonstrations involving hundreds of thousands shook the country. According to the International Transport Workers Federation, "unions from Luxembourg, Germany, Great Britain, Austria and the Ukraine traveled to the French capital to show their solidarity" with the strikers.

* Italy: 20,000 workers, including many Fiat employees, marched in Rome against job cuts.

* Germany: Verdi, the largest union in the country with 2.8 million members, threatened a wave of warning strikes in December as part of its campaign for a 3% wage hike, which employers are refusing to meet. This followed a warning by the head of the DGB, the German national trade union center, that "it will be a dispute-filled winter."

* Portugal: The main confederation of unions has called a general strike on 10 December to protest a proposed new labour law which threatens to take away the gains made following the country's 1974 democratic revolution.

These extraordinary developments are not limited to western Europe. The formerly-Communist Eastern European countries are also experiencing a wave of protests and strikes. In the last seven days we reported on these:

* Poland: 10,000 miners, steel workers and nurses demonstrated in Katowice to protest at government moves to close "unprofitable" coal mines.

* Macedonia: 500 miners are on hunger strike to demand their unpaid wages.

* Croatia: More than 1,500 angry workers from a bankrupt steel mill scuffled with riot police as they attempted to march towards the capital to demand unpaid salaries.

We will continue our 24/7 coverage of these developments -- make sure that  http://www.labourstart.org is the home page on your web browser. Spread the word -- pass this email on!

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