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ISSUE 66 page 4

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TUC joins campaign against Aeroflot jailings

Swiss trade unions condemn migrant quota vote

THE RUSSIAN AIRLINE AEROFLOT has had some success in shrugging off its old image of having a poor safety record and an ageing fleet. It recently became the official carrier for Manchester United F.C. However accusations by the pilots’ trade union ShPLS that the company is overworking staff by employing ‘tired pilots who can fall asleep at any moment’ led to a court ruling that Aeroflot must pay 1 billion roubles in unpaid wages for night and hazardous working. Shortly after this decision three union leaders were arrested on currently unproven charges of embezzlement. According to TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady, who sent a letter of protest to the Russian ambassador, this appears ‘to be part of an on-going Aeroflot campaign against the airline pilots’ union’. ShPLS have long been trying to get agreement to regulate work and rest schedules, leave, planning, insurance, and health check-ups. The International Transport Workers' Federation believe that despite record profits in the Russian aviation industry ‘flight crews have been reduced and aviation infrastructure continues to decay … That is why the safety standards and infrastructure are still in a very poor situation’.


SWITZERLAND COULD BE CALLED THE land of referenda as any proposal to change the law that can attract 100,000 signatures has to be voted on by the whole population. Sometimes, as in the recent ‘Minder initiative’ (see issue 62), the result is favourable for trade unions but  February’s decision to approve the re-introduction of quotas on immigration from the EU has attracted their condemnation. They fear that the situation of migrant workers will return to the position pre-2000 when they were completely without rights. After a recruitment campaign and negotiations with the Swiss government, unions managed to secure a Posted Workers Act and tripartite committees to protect wages and conditions. The electorate then approved these measures, agreements with the EU and, subsequently, the extension of free movement of labour to the new Member States. The new vote, with its narrow 50.3% majority, leaves 1 million EU immigrants in a state of limbo and puts in question the country’s accords with Brussels on trade, education research etc. Swiss trade unions have pledged to fight any laws enacting the referendum result, to uphold the ‘equal pay for equal work at the same location’ principle and to maintain the agreements with the EU.

Turkey tries 502 union members for protest

IN JANUARY THE FIRST HEARING of a court case against 502 members of the Turkish public sector trade union KESK was held in Ankara. The charges relate to a demonstration held two years ago against new laws on unions and education which was violently broken up by police. A separate hearing was held in Istanbul in proceedings against 58 KESK leaders, 23 of whom were subsequently released from prison. Other courts in cities across Turkey had already released many union activists. The trials appear to be part of a concerted campaign against trade unions by the government of Prime Minister Erdogan which has become increasingly authoritarian after riots in the country last June. Both the British TUC and the ETUC protested to the Turkish authorities and many foreign activists attended the Istanbul hearing.

Polish union boycotts Lidl supermarkets
LABOUR RELATIONS IN western supermarket companies that moved in to countries such as Poland and the Czech Republic after the end of Communism have not always run smoothly (see issue 42). Now the  Lidl group is in trouble with Polish trade union Solidarność. The union says that in many big shops there are only five or six workers who are not only at cash-desks but also have to serve the bakery, fill shelves, receive goods and clean. ‘A cashier in Lidl has to scan 1800 products per hour. Almost half of employees don’t have permanent contracts … The turnover is bigger every year and the number of workers is being lowered’ said Alfred Bujara, President of Solidarność Commerce. Following actions to block cash desks last year, the Lidl Poland branch chairwoman and her deputy were sacked. In February a shopping boycott by Solidarność members started and complaints are to be made to bodies such as the International Labour Organisation (ILO). The union points out that the company respects the labour laws in Germany, where they are headquartered, ‘nobody would dare treating workers in such a bad way like in Poland and dismiss Union leaders from work’, said Dominik Kolorz, President of Solidarność‘s Silesia region.

The February boycott logo and a Lidl picket


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