Austria: Battle on pensions goes into decisive round

April 29 saw up to 3,000 workers attend a morning open-air workplace meeting of the OMV (Austrian oil company) and other companies in Vienna in protest at the government’s attacks on the pension system. This is one of a series of protest rallies being organised in different workplaces, the previous day saw a protest meeting by 1,500 Opel autoworkers at the Wien-Aspern plant.

Two hours earlier the right wing Peoples’ party/Freedom party (ÖVP/FPÖ) coalition government decided to go on with their plans for horrific pension cuts. However in the past few days the ÖGB trade union federation leadership have been busy declaring that the proposed "defence strikes" are not directed against the government and therefore "not political". The mood amongst working people is different.

Naturally many workers see this as a political battle. At the OMV rally a lot of anti-government stickers were sold by the SLP, the Austrian affiliate of the CWI. We distributed hundreds of leaflets arguing for widening the "defence strikes" action into a de facto 24-hour general strike combined with a fight for an alternative program for saving the pensions.

There is a danger that isolated small strikes and symbolic actions could lead to a defeat for the working class, throwing back the developing radical mood amongst a growing number of working people. This is why we are arguing for a serious campaign of determined action.

May 1 will see hundreds of thousands on the streets. There are reports of protests being planned during early May. School students strikes have been called for May 6th, a day which may see limited strikes by Vienna public transport workers and protests by other transport workers.

The SLP is participating in all these actions and helping to organise the school student strikes in at least three regions in Austria: Vienna, Linz and Salzburg.

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April 2003