• Live
    • Audio Only
  • google plus
  • facebook
  • twitter
News > Belgium

Record Inflation Prompts Strike Action Across Europe

  • Healthcare workers on strike, London, UK, Dec. 20, 2022.

    Healthcare workers on strike, London, UK, Dec. 20, 2022. | Photo: Twitter/ @ReutersUK

Published 20 December 2022

The biggest driver behind the record-setting price increases has been the Ukrainian conflict, which has cut off Europe's access to Russian energy.

Workers across Europe have taken to the streets in recent weeks, pushed by record-high inflation rates that have eroded the value of their wages.


EU States Agree 180-Euro Gas Price Cap To Contain Energy Crisis

In the 19-nation euro currency zone, the annual inflation rate was at an all-time high of 10.6 percent in October. It retreated slightly to 10.1 percent in November, but that was still the second-highest monthly rate since the creation of the euro in 1999. All told, the eurozone's six highest monthly inflation figures were all took recorded in the past six months.

Elsewhere in Europe, outside the eurozone, the story has been similar. In the United Kingdom (UK), inflation reached its highest rate since 1981 in October, checking in at 11.1 percent. Price pressure eased slightly in November at 10.7 percent.

The biggest driver behind the record-setting price increases has been the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, which has cut off Europe's access to Russian energy, while also reducing supplies of wheat and other grains and disrupting international supply chains.

Across the continent, wages have failed to keep up with rising prices. According to the European Union's (EU) statistical office Eurostat, wages in the eurozone rose a record 4.5 percent in June (the latest data available), but that was barely half the 8.9 percent inflation rate recorded for the same period. This has helped spark widespread worker discontent.

One of the biggest demands of the demonstrators is for governments to take action to put a low cap on energy prices -- something European Union (EU) countries had a hard time agreeing on.

"They have to lower the price of energy because it's not working," Fiore Scattolini, a member of the Ford Industriel Belge, a trade union, said. Unions in Belgium were on strike on last Friday.

"If we don't do something, I don't know where we'll go," Scattolini said. "They are unraveling everything and we risk finding ourselves in poverty. This has to change."

In Italy, the story was similar. "Prices are rising so much that we have to skip meals to save money in order to keep the lights on," Patrizio Longo, a member of the CGIL trade union, said.

"If the government won't take action to help us during a time of emergency then they are not doing the job they were elected to do."

European governments have generally earmarked funds to help poor families and companies in energy-intensive industries. But after years of lower tax revenue and higher spending during the coronavirus pandemic, available funds are sparse.

Lengthy strikes are generally prohibited in Europe. But even brief walk-offs can have a deep impact, especially around the winter holidays, when people are more likely to travel to see friends and family, heating bills rise and peoples' social calendars fill up.

In the UK, Eurostar train officials are scheduled to walk off the job on Dec. 22-23, while their colleagues in France are considering a similar move, calling for their employers to adjust pension levels to reflect higher prices.

Italy saw a period of five days of strikes by transport and public service workers last week (specific entities stopped work for one day each) and in Portugal, airlines canceled hundreds of flights due to a shortage of in-flight and ground crews.

Airport workers in Spain have a full list of brief strikes scheduled for December and next January, while in Belgium, the strike on Friday severely disrupted public transport networks.

Post with no comments.