Public bus transport throughout Austria is at a standstill today (25/06/02) as 3,000 drivers take strike action for 48 hours. The strike is in protest at an attempt by the right wing government to sell off 30% of the state owned bus firm. The union says that ‘part privatisation’ will destroy 1,000 out of 3,000 jobs.
The strike has been solid. Over 1,600 buses remain in garages, affecting 500,000 passengers.
Socialist Left Party (SLP) member, Franz, reports from Vienna:
"Today, we have had a great response when we met striking bus workers. Our leaflets supporting the strike and pointing a way forward had a good response. We travelled with the strikers throughout Vienna. They used our SLP placards.
"The formation of a campaign against privatisation has been discussed, including the possibility of united strike action in autumn. But perhaps the dynamism shown by the strikers so far will lead to more action sooner. The mood amongst workers can be summed up along the following lines, ‘unless we have action from all other unions the government will win’. The present international strike wave, in Spain, for example, is also an inspiration to these workers.
"The SLP will take part in a demonstration tomorrow in front of parliament, the labour ministry and the bus management office".
The 48 hour strike of bus services in Austria, which started on Tuesday 25 June, involves 3, 000 workers, and affects 500, 000 people. It s the second strike action against the government’s plan to privatize the bus services and sell off the profit-making parts to three private companies. According to the shop stewards, 1,000 Jobs are at stake.
The leading shop steward in the strike represents a new kind of trade unionists in Austria. He is under pressure from the right-wing bureaucracy of the ÖGB (TUC), but he has no alternative than to go into offensive. The mood of the striking workers is very clear: without the expansion of the strike to all other parts of the public services the struggle will be lost. The example of the strike action of the ‘Independent Education Union’ (UBG, formed in 2001) on 2 May, against the official union leadership, also inspired the workers. The ÖGB officially supports the strike while trying to construct a ‘deal’ in the background. There are no illusions in the ‘offer’ by the FPÖ-minister to give a "guarantee for all jobs". The workers argue that this pledge will be impossible to honour once the bus firm or part of it is under the rule of the private companies.
Many people are fully supporting the actions of the bus workers. Even the tabloids have to be very careful in dealing with the strike(s).
A danger for the movement lies in not spreading the action to other workers, such as the teachers, railway workers and the Telecom workers, where work-place-meetings have been held in solidarity.
The Austrian section of the CWI, the SLP, supported from the beginning the actions of the bus workers. We call for a one-day general strike to defend public services against any privatisations and cuts. Furthermore, we call for a new political alternative that meets the interests of working people and youth. Our support was very welcome amongst the strikers.
On Wednesday, we will be part of the blockade of the inner city circle route in Vienna and the protests in front of parliament, the Labour ministry and the bus management center.
Please send messages of support to the strikers via: firstname.lastname@example.org. We will pass them on to the strikers.