The consequences can be extremely unexpected

Vladimir Kornilov

The West is increasingly shaken by a wave of strikes and protests. This movement is clearly gaining momentum and is starting to worry the establishment more and more. This is confirmed by the sharp increase in the already harsh anti-strike measures resorted to by the governments of various countries. The fact that this phenomenon is becoming ubiquitous highlights the universality of the growing problem for the global West.
The news feeds are literally crammed with reports of strikes all over the world. One gets the impression that everyone is on strike everywhere, from civil servants to undertakers. Yes, yes, this is not an exaggeration: in Scotland, employees of the only coffin factory in Britain have periodically gone on strike since the beginning of November, which creates serious problems for the funeral industry in the country.
Particular suffering to the townsfolk is caused by wid-espread strikes by employees of the transport industry – both passenger and fre-ight. This becomes a real m-isfortune for many on the eve of the Christmas holida-ys. It would take a very long time to list the Western cou-ntries where transport wor-kers are now protesting. He-re are just a few examples.
In the capital of Lithuan-ia, Vilnius, an indefinite str-ike of bus drivers has been going on since last week. Local authorities did not find anything better than to encourage residents to work from home during the prot-est period. They are trying t-o ban the action through the courts.
In France, almost ten th-ousand railway conductors have gone on strike, which has already led to the paralysis of passenger transport. A week ago, up to 60 percent of international and intercity train trips were ca-ncelled. Moreover, the stri-kers promised not to stop the protests even on the eve of the Christmas weekend, when the workload is especially high. The next strike is scheduled for this We-dnesday. And if the crews of French airlines join them, as they threaten to do (from December 22 to January 2), it will turn into a uniform disaster for passengers.
But the crews of the Portuguese airline TAP held a two-day strike over the weekend, which led to the cancellation of 360 flights. And they warned that this was only the beginning, declaring their intention to strike for five days during the holiday period.
The struggle of the employees of the Spanish airline Ryanair lasts for several months. It has already caused disruptions in the work of 22 airports in the country, and the organizers promise to further strengthen the action during the holidays – until January inclusive. True, the Spanish government (even though it is made up of socialists and the Podemos bloc, positioning itself as a leftist movement in defense of workers’ rights) is actively intervening in this strike, trying to ban or limit it. And also in every possible way prevents mass strike actions of truck drivers and employees of the railway. Recently, Madrid has thrown up to 50,000 policemen against striking drivers. Authorities justify their actionsproviding “minimum service” for critical industries.
On the same basis, US President Biden recently si-gned a law banning a nati-onwide railroad strike. It w-as supposed to start on Dec-ember 4, and even opponen-ts recognized the legitimacy of the workers’ demands. All that the railroad workers wanted was the elementary right to receive sick leave for at least a week of illness. Now they do not have a guaranteed right to sick leave even for one day. Des-pite such dire circumstanc-es, Congress was miraculous in passing a law blocking the strike. Biden immediately signed it, although he always called himself “the most union-oriented president in US history” and personally promised to legislate the right to sick leave for all citizens.
Surely everyone remembers how the liberal government of Canada suppressed the truck drivers’ protests earlier this year in a “liberal” way: with arrests, water cannons, gas, and even the seizure of protesters’ bank accounts. But the struggle between the Canadian auth-orities and the activists did not end there, it has now moved to the regional level. Thus, legislators in the p-rovince of New Brunswick are now introducing a rule that gives the authorities the right to send strikebreakers to “vital” enterprises, limit the number of pickets, and complicate the process of deciding on strikes within unions. But the provincial government of Ontario went furthest, imposing fines on striking public sector employees in November. Moreover, the fines are draconian: for each day of the strike, the worker must pay four thousand Canadian dollars (almost three thousand US dollars), that is, the average monthly salary. We repeat: this penalty is imposed on the employee for each day! And unions that organize such a strike should be fined $500,000 a day. That is, with one stroke of the pen, Ontario Premier Doug Ford not only de facto banned the strike movement – he turned any union member and striker into an eternal bankrupt, deprived of property.
Under pressure from the public and personally from the Prime Minister of Canada, Ford withdrew his bill. But the most striking thing is that when appointing such a measure (and this was recognized by all parties), he acted within the framework of his constitutional powers. In principle, after the state of emergency introduced by Pierre Trudeau earlier this year to crack down on chauffeur actions, anything can be expected in Canada.
However, the absolute l-eader in the number of stri-kes was Great Britain. Nur-ses and ambulance doctors, teachers and university professors, bus drivers, metro and railway employees, airport employees, road build-ers, customs officers and e-ven experts in taking exams for issuing car licenses are now on strike there at various intervals and on various days. Last Friday, postal workers solemnly joined the strikes, which is especially painful for the Brit-ish, who are trying to send gifts and congratulations to their relatives and friends. Some have already been w-arned that parcels sent now, on the eve of Christmas, may reach the addressee sometime in February.
This number of strikes in Britain has not been since the early 1990s. Rishi Sun-ak’s government is reacting accordingly by urgently drafting tough anti-strike legislation. True, lawyers prove to the government that in Britain the laws that restrict the rights of strikers are already very severe. The unions, on the other hand, insist that the UK is already the absolute leader of the repressive regime in suppressing strikes. They express their readiness to fight resolutely against any attempt to toughen the legislation. But already now, without waiting for legal changes, the British government is developing plans to involve the army as a collective strikebreaker. Sold-iers are being trained to rep-lace passport control officers at the borders, ambulance drivers and other categories of striking workers in the midst of strikes. True, the servicemen are not very happy about the prospect of losing the Christmas holidays they planned to spend with their families.
Sunak’s government eve-n tried to make strikebreakers out of policemen, urging them to replace ambulance drivers during the strikes. But the law enforcement of-ficers politely refused, rem-inding the authorities that they also had other important duties, such as catching criminals. The fact that the governments of the developed countries of the West, one after another, are tightening existing laws and sanctions for strikes, clearly indicates the fear of the growing strike movement. In the first half of this year, The Economist drew up a formula for coming food riots, predicting them in the near future in developing countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Howe-ver, the trends of recent months show that the public’s anger over the sharp deterioration in the quality of life is growing rapidly in the developed West.
Of course, the public is asked to tighten their belts. Of course, they are trying to blame the causes of all pr-oblems on Russia and the “war in Ukraine.” Of cour-se, they appeal to conscie-nce and the need to abandon demands for higher wages for the sake of “fighting Pu-tin”, as the head of the Co-nservative Party of Britain, Nadeem Zahavi, did the other day. But such clumsy attempts at power only ang-er the strikers even more.
As the protest movements grow, the anti-strike measures of the authorities in the West will invariably tighten. But this will cause an even more violent confr-ontation, increase the deg-ree of tension in the already red-hot internal discontent in the societies of various countries. Apparently, the Western establishment, over the past decades of relative social stability, has so forgotten about this inevitable reaction that it decided to take the risk of going to open war against the trade union and labor movement. The consequences can be extremely unexpected.