Austria: Success for ‘Austrian Airlines’ strike!

The struggle of the cockpit and cabin-stuff of the ’Austrian Airlines’ (AUA) has finally succeeded in stopping the immediate attacks of the management.

The plan to cut wages by 35 % and cut 400 jobs seem to be off the table, at least temporarily. The call for a strike on November 17, the fifth strike within two months, although in the end lasting only 15 minutes, accelerated the turmoil amongst the management and leading representatives of the ruling class. Fearing further escalations both the ÖGB (trade union federation) leader and the chairman of the main bosses’ organisation intervened.

All the media propaganda that strike action leads to the destruction of jobs and conditions has been blown up. In total contrast the deal includes (beside a small loss for AUA staff) quite big gains for "Lauda" airline staff that are part of the same group. The strike of so called "privileged" workers has consequently led to a success for weaker parts inside the company and is leading to more unity amongst the workforce!

A big factor was the presence of a militant workers’ committee that was not controlled by any of the trade union fractions of the main political parties. The SLP was supporting this struggle from the beginning and is aiming to generalise the lessons for other parts of the labour movement, especially the railway workers whose struggle was called off a few days ago. Their struggle against rail privatisation will have to be continued in the near future, while the AUA staff must be on guard against management counter-attacks.

Given the role of outside mediators in agreeing the final deal there is the possibility that some illusions in "social partnership" will return. Some elements within the ruling class may use this as a "counterweight" and “alternative” to the right wing government’s policy of confrontation, arguing that it is better to try to involve trade union leaders in carrying out attacks.

The SLP will emphasise that the lessons of this struggle is that action is the key if the working class is going to be able to defend its interests. This year has seen the Austrian working class begin to return to its militant roots, now it is necessary to develop new fighting traditions in both industrial battles and the political arena.

Socialist Left Party (SLP) is the cwi in Austria

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November 2003