AUSTRIA – Independent Strike

Following we publish an unofficial translation of a report on an independent strike, which was done by workers in Austria on the 18th of March.


"Corona crisis": Report on an independent strike in Austria in City of Linz:

While the bourgeois media never tires of promoting "Team Austria" in numerous press conferences and news items, the workers in the factories reveal this illusion. In Linz, workers went on strike independently of the trade union bureaucracy and demanded measures to protect their health!

As we reported in the article "Upper Austria: Workers Strike!", on Wednesday, March 18th, the workers of the plastic and foam manufacturer Greiner Perfoam/ Eurofoam stopped work for two hours. They went on strike, as they themselves declared, against "the irresponsible behavior of the company management". The management did not take any measures for the safety of the workers, who now feared the dangerous consequences of the Corona pandemic.

On 17th of March, the company announced that it would continue operations in Kremsmünster, Linz, Graz and Innsbruck. What is particularly piquant, however, is that only two days before the strike, the company management boasted in a broadcast: "We are taking all the necessary steps to protect our workforce and at the same time ensure continued production". Obviously this was not the case, or rather the views of the workers and the management were obviously far apart as to what the "necessary steps" were. While there were still "safety days" in the company on 6th and 10th of March, with the words "The health and safety of our employees is our top priority", it soon became clear what the reality was. Namely: the vitality of our capital and the safeguarding of our profit is our top priority!

Greiner AG is a German-Austrian group with 62 locations in 18 different countries. In May 2019, the media reported that the group's turnover had recently increased again by 3%, to nothing less than 1.6 billion Euros. Eleven years earlier, in the course of the global economic crisis in 2008, the group was also in the news with the announcement: "Greiner Group adapts to the crisis". Which for the Linz location meant nothing more than layoffs of 60 to 80 workers and short-time work for the rest. At that time, the group management said that they had to react to the economic changes by reducing the workforce. It is therefore not surprising that the health and safety of the workers is given top priority exclusively for advertising purposes!

So the workers went on strike on March 18th! Not only did they (justifiably!) oppose the government's already declared ban on assembly, but above all they showed that the workers are prepared to struggle - even without the consent of the ÖGB (Austrian Federation of Trade Unions) bleadership. This strike was organized by the workers themselves! It was also the initiative of the workers to carry out this strike in front of the factory gates, as there is not enough space in the factory halls to keep the safety distances.

The strike was carried out independently by the shift workers at Greiner Perfoam, without any strike permit. Not only that the official trade union side did not even report about it, in the company itself it was the workers council (!) hand in hand with the management, which put the workers under pressure and broke the strike. Under great protest the workers left their picket after about two hours. On the same day the ÖGB published a statement entitled "Companies must protect their employees". In it it says cynically: "The health of workers and employees must come first". However, it seems that for some works councils, and especially for the union leadership, the interest of the capitalists comes first! At Greiner they are obviously used to break strikes instead of supporting the workforce for their justified concerns. In the social and health sector they are now (!) negotiating behind closed doors an extremely rotten "compromise" in an attempt to stifle any protest and strike!

The workers at Greiner in Linz are an important example and role model for the working class in Austria: for the almost 600,000 unemployed, for those who have been dismissed because of the current situation, for those who have been sent on short time, for those who have to take forced leave and especially for those who are now supposed to put their health at risk for the capitalists.

Also internationally the workers defended themselves and did not silently accept to be exposed to "extra" dangerous conditions. In Spain (in the Basque Country) 5,000 workers went on strike in the Mercedes factory on 16th of March and stopped production. In Italy there were strikes at Ikea in Rome, at the dock workers in Genoa, at the AST factory in Ternin, at a logistics company in Caorso and at a number of factories in Brescia, among others. Among other things, they demanded protective clothing, gloves, disinfectants, or simply the shutting down of the plant because the safety distance could not be maintained.

What the workers at Greiner Perfoam in Linz did is an important step in the right direction! Through their actions, they have also shattered the lie that "it is not possible to go on strike at the moment". What the working class needs now is solidarity among themselves and trust in their own strength. The workers at Greiner are taking big steps in this direction. That is why their strike is such an important example and model: the workers organized themselves independently and autonomously!

Defend yourselves and struggle:

No passing on of the costs of the "Corona crisis" to the working class and popular masses! No to dismissals, lay-offs and short-time work!

#Austria #Strike #CoronaCrisis