The capitalist class and the governments controlled by them have stepped up their anti-social offensives against the working people in a bid to push the burden of the present crisis too onto the backs of the working class. Workers everywhere are valiantly fighting back and we present reports of some of these struggle in several countries.
Nissan workers protest closure of factory in Barcelona
Vigorous protests followed the decision of the Japanese company Nissan to close its forty-year old factory in Barcelona in the last week of May 2020. Over 3,000 workers were employed in this factory, some of them for over 30 years. Coming as it did during the Covid – 19 pandemic, the decision to close the factory was particularly devastating. Spain is a country quite badly hit by the health crisis.
Most of the workers are worried that they would find it difficult to get other jobs in the current situation. The sense of having given their best years of their lives to the capitalists for their operations in Spain only to be left high and dry at a time when the general situation was quite harsh and their own conditions were pathetic naturally made the workers quite angry. Protests erupted outside the factory and also in the city of Barcelona. Workers blocked roads and burned piles of tyres in protest.
The capacity of the plant is around 200,000 units per year, but that had been reduced by a third even before the coronavirus pandemic. A decade ago, when the site was already in difficulty following the global financial crisis, it was kept going partly in exchange for wage cuts for staff. As one worker said: “Workers make sacrifices in return for broken promises,”
In addition to 3,000 direct jobs, some 22,000 more depend indirectly on the site. Production there had already ground to a halt at the start of May 2020 when some staff went on strike demanding an investment strategy for the site after plans were announced to cut 20 percent of the workforce. The closure of the Nissan plant in Barcelona is an example of continuing destruction of productive forces under capitalism.
Tata steel workers to go on strike against job cuts
On June 4, 2020, employees at Tata Steel’s Dutch plant in IJmuiden on Thursday voted to go on strike over planned cuts of over 1,000 jobs and the plant’s further integration with Tata’s British operations.
Though Tata Europe has said it does not plan forced redundancies until at least October next year, unions have rightly demanded the company drops the plan to cut jobs in IJmuiden, along with plans to integrate the Dutch and British activities.
About 2,000 union members had gathered in the nearby town of Beverwijk on Thursday June 4, 2020 to discuss strike action. Strikes could start as early as June 10, 2020 unless Tata Steel meets the demands of its workers.
Nurses to go on strike
With an overwhelming majority, nurses in Iceland have decided that they would go on strike to improve their working conditions, Nurses have been working without a contract for over a year, and wage negotiations between the nurses’ union Icelandic Nurses’ Association (FÍH) and the state have not been successful. The strike will begin on June 22, 2020 unless an agreement is reached in the meanwhile.
The nurses have been in an extended wage dispute with the government and have not had a valid contract for 15 months. Along with regulation of working hours, the main demand of the nurses was for a higher base salary that takes into account their qualifications and the vital role they play in the health system.
Steel workers’ strike
Metalworkers affiliated to the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) at Macsteel, one of Africa’s leading steel suppliers, took strike action starting May 28, 2020 after the company management cut salaries by 20 percent, blaming the effects of the pandemic. Workers allege the company has not applied for the government-funded Temporary Employment Relief Scheme, designed to help struggling firms pay workers in the health emergency, and which would offset the reduction in wages.
Macsteel produces steel and aluminium products to be used in the automotive, construction, agriculture, gas, and petrochemicals industries. The action by National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa will hit Macsteel Coil Processing, Exports, Fluid Control, Roofing, Special Steels, Trading, Tube and Pipe and Macsteel VRN. The company is seeking a court interdict against the stoppage.
Doctors and health workers’ struggles
Frontline health workers in Sierra Leone went on strike over non-payment of risk allowances on Monday June 1, 2020. These workers – surveillance officers and contact tracers – are crucial in the fight against the Covid 19 pandemic.
Just two days after the Covid-19 responders went on strike, medical doctors in Sierra Leone have issued a strike notice over non-payment of allowances and incentives. The Sierra Leone Medical and Dental Association (SLMDA) issued the strike notice on Wednesday June 3, 2020, with a 48-hour ultimatum, to the government to meet all terms of payment as contained in a Memorandum of Understanding signed in April or face a “massive disruption” of healthcare services. “Allowances to healthcare workers at the very forefront in treatment and isolation centres are almost non-existent… the payment has been erratic and only paid to some,” the association said.
Nepalese and Indian workers protest demanding unpaid wages
Over 500 workers from Nepal and India went on strike at the end of May 2020 at the giant oil and gas company Altrad to demand wages not yet paid to them.
The workers say that their employer had not paid their salaries for two months in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. During this time most of the workers had been confined to their accommodation without work or wages. The workers took strike action at the company premises and prevented other workers going to work.
Workers are also demanding that the Nepal government repatriate those workers who wish to return home.