Tuesday

17th Sep 2019

EU strike: work disrupted, but no threat to summit

  • Empty tables - the Council did almost no work on Thursday (Photo: Valentina Pop)

Around nine in 10 EU Council staff and one in 10 European Commission officials went on strike on Thursday (8 November) in protest at proposed pay cuts.

Trade unions estimate that between 500 to 1,000 workers met outside the commission's main building in the EU quarter in Brussels to hear speeches and wave placards.

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The EU court and commission offices in Luxembourg were also affected. Commission research facilities in Petten, in the Netherlands, and in Ispra, Italy, were involved as well.

The Council did almost no work as a result.

The commission kept running pretty smoothly, except for one glitch - no interpreters at its regular press briefing. The European Parliament and the EU's foreign service did not take part in the strike.

Unionists told EUobserver the turnout at the Council was the highest because the Council's masters - EU countries - are the ones who are proposing to wield the axe on the EU budget. Top commission officials and MEPs share the workers' point of view (but the commission docked strikers a day's pay despite its empathy).

EU Council chief Herman Van Rompuy is due to speak to unions on 14 November to tell them how he thinks the EU budget talks will go at the summit on 22 November.

If he delivers bad news, there could be a strike on 16 November or even on summit day itself.

A summit day strike is unlikely, however.

Simon Coates from the Council's FFPE union told EUobserver his members are legally obliged to provide "basic" services for Council meetings even amidst industrial action.

He noted that EU leaders would need about 150 translators to churn out copies of summit documents, but their own delegations could do the rest of the work. He added that leaders would "hardly notice any protesters" because of the heavy police presence.

Felix Geradon, from the Union Syndicale, told this website pre-summit action is more effective because "all the summit decisions are pre-cooked before the summit anyway."

The unions in a joint statement on Thursday said that if deeper cuts go through "the institutions would no longer be able to meet their responsibilities" or "to attract competent staff."

They noted that the total EU staff wage bill costs each EU citizen just 2 centimes a day.

For their part, Austria, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and the UK want to cut EU pensions and perks.

The group said in a joint letter last month: "Most MS [member states] are responding to current economic and fiscal circumstances with efficiency measures or other reforms affecting the terms and conditions of their national civil servants. The staff of the European institutions should share the burden."

Strike: Minimal disruption to EU summit

Brussels' main airport was working as normal and access roads to the EU capital were open on Monday despite a general strike in Belgium.

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