Strikes hit France, UK and Germany

Three of the EU’s leading economies will be hit by strikes on 28 March. Both in France and the UK the disruptions underline the difficulty in pushing through labour market reforms.   

France is bracing itself for country-wide strikes. Around a 100 demonstrations are expected to disrupt public transport as both public and private sector workers will go on the streets against the ‘CPE’. 

PM Dominique de Villepin’s so-called ‘first job contract’ is designed to better the 20 percent plus youth unemployment by making it easier to fire under 26 year olds during a 2 year trial period. The underlying threat to traditional long-term job guarantee and a poor presentation of the plans, however, have provoked anger and resentment.

In the UK local government pensions and the future of early retirement schemes are at stake as 1,5 million council workers across the UK go on a 24-hour strike which, according to the unions, is expected to be the biggest labour disruption in the UK since the General Strike in 1926.

The anger is directed at the government’s plans to abolish a rule that allows some local government employees to retire on a full pension at the age of 60. Longer life expectancy and the ensuing budget pressure is the reasoning behind the cuts, as is European legislation against age discrimination, that will be introduced in the UK later in 2006.

In Germany, IG Metall, the world’s biggest labour union, will send members on so-called warning strikes at the BMW car manufacturing factory in Leipzig. Around 3.4 million metal-industry and engineering workers are demanding a 5 percent pay increase. Wage negotiations aimed at resolving the dispute failed twice.

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