The Austrian ÖVP-FPÖ coalition government started its general attack on the country’s pension system while missiles hit cities in Iraq. The implementation of these "reform" plans will mean that working people can expect between 10% to 40 % less in their pensions, plus 88,000 more unemployed.
These plans have met with enormous hostility. There is large pressure from below on the union leaders to stop these attacks. There is widespread discussion of the need for strike action, including a general strike.
Sallmutter, the leader of the GPA private white collar union, has threatened strike action, saying that never before in his thirty three years as a union official has he seen such a mood of anger develop amongst workers in such a short time. On 24 April, the ÖGB trade union federation will decide on what action to take. The Vienna ÖGB has called for a national general strike of one or two hours. The opposition social democrats (SPÖ) have also spoken of strikes, although they have made clear they are not so keen on a general strike.
The SLP (the CWI in Austria) is preparing for a battle to stop the cuts in the next weeks. We demand the organisation of a national conference of shop stewards, union activists and representatives of the school students and other social movements to prepare and set the date as soon as possible for a 24-hour general strike. We argue that the ÖGB has to take such a measure in order to defend the living standards of working people and the younger generations.
Given the instability of Haider’s FPÖ wing of the coalition, which was weakened in recent local elections, the government would come under huge pressure to significantly retreat if a national stoppage was organised in the first week of May. Clearly such a development would mark a highly significant change both in Austrian society and in the workers’ movement.