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ISSUE 70 page 4

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Long strike secures deal at Italian steel plant

Lithuania joins euro

AFTER A STRIKE LASTING 44 DAYS Italian trade unions have greatly improved an industrial plan in which the steel-maker Thyssen Krupp proposed shutting down one furnace at its Terni plant while unilaterally terminating company agreements with the unions. Members of FIM-CISL, FIOM-CGIL, and UILM voted overwhelmingly for the new deal which will see both furnaces stay open for at least four years, investment to the tune of €140 million in the period 2014-18 and a guaranteed output of a minimum 1 million tonnes of cast steel per year.  The original 575 redundancies have been reduced to 305, all of which will be voluntary. The local regional government, Umbria, has undertaken to provide vocational retraining for both redundant Thyssen Krupp workers and those employed by sub-contractors. Night work, productivity, seniority and Sunday bonuses will be preserved.  The bishop of Terni, and even the Pope, had got involved during the industrial action with Pope Francis making ‘a heartfelt appeal, that a logic of profit does not prevail, but one of solidarity and justice’.

ItaylSteelProt

Terni steel workers protest in St.Peter’s Square, Rome

DESPITE THE CURRENT STRAIN ON THE EU single currency there are still willing applicants for the euro. The latest recruit is the Baltic state of Lithuania which converted from its own litas on New Year’s Day. Shortly after midnight Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevicius withdrew his first 10-euro bill from a Vilnius cash machine commenting that ‘The euro will serve as a guarantee for our economic and political security’. However as the country approached the changeover  support for the new currency reduced to 53%. with 39% against. Lithuania has already committed large sums to the euro-zone rescue fund. In 2007 it was denied entry as its inflation rate was 2.7%, .1% over the limit. This time it has imported 132 million euro notes to make sure that it becomes the nineteenth member of the club. The litas ceased to be legal tender in January but dual pricing will continue until June.

LitasNote

The litas: on the way out

Young Finnish unionists want to ban zero-hours contracts

Norway settlements to follow export industries

ZERO-HOURS CONTRACTS ARE CURRENTLY a hot topic in the U.K. Companies who employ workers without any guarantee of regular hours have been attacked by both government and opposition. Young trade unionists in Finland are also appalled by the practice, which can include exclusivity clauses banning people from working for any other employer, and are hoping to do something about it. They are collecting signatures for a ‘citizens’ initiative’; if more than 50,000 adults put forward proposed legislation   parliament must debate it. According to the youth secretary of the union federation SAK ‘Zero-hours contracts and part-time work are a reality for many young workers’. Young activists started Operaatio vakiduuni (Operation steady job) to demand that zero-hours contracts be outlawed and part-time jobs should guarantee at least 18 hours of work per week. The initiative has six months to get 50,000 Finns to sign on the dotted line; after ten days the figure was 2,600. Since the process was first allowed three years ago five citizens’ initiatives have been submitted to parliament and one has resulted in a new law.
PAY DEALS IN NORWAY ARE likely to follow the main export industries after the Fellesforbundet, a member of the LO union federation, and Norsk Industri, employers in sectors such as metalworking and textiles, agreed a rise of €0.08 per hour. After allowing for added benefits negotiated at company level the likely overall increase is thought to be 3.3%. In Norway the companies who are exposed to international competition are expected to set the standard for the rest of the economy so that any rises are proportionate to both inflation and productivity growth. LO was hoping that they could also achieve an improvement in occupational pensions but both social partners agreed that further research was needed on this subject. Most sectors have followed the pay deal as prescribed but trade unions in the public sector have secured an option to to exceed 3.3% if the final figure in manufacturing is higher. Also, strikes did break out in certain occupations such as teaching (see our last issue) and laundry work. The teachers’ unions reached a settlement with local authorities at the end of August after the employers withdrew their proposal for a mandatory 7.5 hours a day on school premises. The laundry workers however had to accept compulsory arbitration as their strike was judged to be a threat to health and life.




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