OPINION

Union demands

…Concerns over the future of labor relations has triggered a wave of strikes in many European states. An interesting development is the first big strike in seven years in Germany, the EU powerhouse, and the new form that this has taken. Rolling stoppages, that is walkouts at plants for a day at a time, instead of the traditional system of indefinite walkouts at all targeted firms at the same time, does not bring the entire production base to a halt, hence damaging the economy. The Italians, for their part, have kept to the traditional model and have taken to the streets en masse in an attempt to protest the new legislation promoted by the Berlusconi government. But what happened in Greece on the day of the strike? Fragmented unions appeared at two scattered demonstrations, demanding the pullout of Israeli troops from Palestinian territory. As if this were their major problem, as if the social security and labor issues have all been solved… Yet conditions in Greece are ripe for a more responsible stance on behalf of the unions. The mass public participation at last year’s rallies against social security reform shows that people respond when substantial issues are at stake. Unfortunately, however, the lightness with which union leaders utilize this power may lead to new distortions. But it is imperative that the unions take part in shaping the new conditions in the post-EMU era…