Our Life and Times
Strikes in France, Italy
by Kevin A. Barry
[caption: Workers marched in Milan, April 2, as part of a
general strike across Italy called by alternative unions. One million walked out
and more than 250,000 marched in different parts of the country.]
In early April, hundreds of thousands of workers went on
strike across France to protest plans by the conservative government of Jacques
Chirac and Jean-Pierre Raffarin to slash pension benefits. The vast majority of
flights had to be cancelled, while railroad and subway service was cut in half.
Only about half the school teachers showed up to work and museums were also
strongly affected. In addition, a total of over 350,000 workers took to the
streets across the country. Comprised mainly of public employees, who formed the
heart of the strike, the demonstrators included large numbers of private sector
workers as well.
Two weeks earlier, thousands of Belgian, Dutch, British, French, and Spanish dockworkers demonstrated outside the Europarliament in Strasbourg, leading to some confrontations with police. The workers were protesting plans to make the European ports more "competitive" by allowing ship owners to use low-wage non-unionized workers from Third World countries to load and unload cargo.
Published by News and Letters Committees