Left MEPs defend right to strike in plenary

The right to strike is a fundamental democratic right that must be protected – that's the message from GUE/NGL MEPs who intervened this morning in a debate on the International Labour Organization and the right to strike.

Greek MEP Kostas Chrysogonos said: “The right to strike is the strongest weapon that working people have when it comes to defending their interests vis à vis their employers. This is clearly safeguarded by Article 28 of the EU's Charter of Fundamental Rights. But in practice EU elites, who always strive to make working people poorer in favour of capital, are still trying to undermine this right.

“During negotiations with the previous Greek government, the Troika attempted to do away with the right to strike by demanding a law be passed that would mean a strike could only be called if a full majority of workers decided to so – this is unworkable given large numbers of employees are often scattered around different parts of the country.”

Spanish MEP Tania González said: “The right to strike is being seriously threatened around the world. Spain is particularly backwards in this sense with activists being imprisoned for trade union activity: it is not by chance that the government that is trying to dismantle the social state is also trying to limit the rights of citizens to defend themselves. Furthermore, European policies that make employment more precarious make it increasingly difficult for European citizens to demand their rights.”

She also added that we must support the Global day of action in defence of the right to strike on 18 February.

Cypriot MEP Neoklis Sylikiotis said: “The right to strike is a human right. Unfortunately the liberal memorandum policies of austerity which are imposed on the Troika states are dismantling labour relations and abusing workers' rights. More and more EU governments are doing away with collective agreements. The EU should move away from these liberal policies. The Commission should ask member states to promote policies that favour collective bargaining, workers' rights and the right to strike.”

German MEP Helmut Scholz said: “We are seeing rapid changes in global production and value creation chains. This means people's living and working conditions are changing dramatically all over the world. There are various economic and social framework conditions in place which means we must urgently make sure that the regulatory conditions are in place. Trade and economic cooperation need legal protection, but I'm not referring to protection for investors – rather I'm referring to workers and their trade unions. The right to strike is a means to fight exploitation and social dumping”

Portuguese MEP Miguel Viegas said: “The right to strike is a fundamental right. It is important for workers to understand its strength. What we've seen is recurrent limitations to these fundamental rights brought in. This has huge costs for society. The right to strike is limited via measures actually designed to make the right to strike inoperable. We need social and economic emancipation for workers.”

Basque MEP Josu Juaristi said: “The Commission must look closely at the standards set out by the ILO and the way they are being implemented in various countries. It is important that the European Charter for Fundamental Rights is respected in all of these countries. The ILO debate can't be an excuse for inaction, we have to make sure that standards are met across Europe. While the EU must speak with one voice when it speaks to the ILO, this does not mean we should round down to the lowest common denominator because the lowest common denominator is the least progressive.”