Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal… the wage crisis is shaking up the Old Continent

Social conflicts aggregating a wide variety of anger around the same claim, sometimes exploited by the far right.

After the invasion of Ukraine and the inflation, now is the time for protests.

For several months, Europe has been shaken by social conflicts bringing together a wide variety of anger around the same demand, from Madrid to Berlin: wage increases, still lagging behind in the face of the soaring prices that are hitting families in the portfolio.

“In Portugal, we are among those
who earn the least in Europe”

France did not wait for the day of mobilization on October 18 to taste the consequences of this growing discontent.

Last summer, strikes were already disrupting the traffic of low-cost airlines in Spain, in the name of this same defense of wages.

In Belgiumthe quest for purchasing power also threw several thousand people onto the streets last month, determined to obtain the modification of a 1996 law to allow unions to negotiate increases.

Anger also swells Portugal, where the CGTP union called for demonstrations on Saturday in Lisbon and Porto. Here, the workers “live in misery, explains Manuela Santos, municipal official, quoted by RFI. We are among those who earn the least in Europe. And in Europe when they say they no longer have the means to heat themselves , we’ve been like that for years. So stop, that’s enough!”

Main demand: a minimum wage raised from €705 to €800, where the Verdi and DBB unions are asking for Germany 10.5% increase for some 2.5 million public sector employees, together with an increase of €200 per month for trainees.

They burn their bills

“Securing income, which involves compensating for inflation, particularly for middle and low-income employees, is for us at the heart of the collective bargaining cycle”, underlines the German Frank Werneke, general secretary of Verdi, quoted by Reuters.

Wage negotiations are due to resume in early 2023 across the Rhine. They promise to be “very difficult”, warns DBB representative Ulrich Silberbach.

Gyms to warm up

The situation is even more complex at the borders of the European Union, across the Channel: the UK is entangled in multi-sector strikes (railway workers, hospitals, dockers, lawyers, teachers, etc.).

Crisis accentuated by an explosion in energy prices pushed here to its climax, to the point that gymnasiums will be open this winter to allow Britons who cannot heat themselves at home to regroup in a warm place.

New Prime Minister Liz Truss made matters worse by clumsily announcing a vast plan of tax cuts and aid, without announcing sources of funding, panicking markets and banks, before a spectacular backpedal from Downing-Street that sacrificed everything both its ambitions and its finance minister Kwasi Kwarteng, replaced by Jeremy Hunt.

The far right surfs on the phenomenon

A crisis that can hide another, Liz Truss is now in the hot seat. Sometimes exploited, the wage crisis is particularly fertile ground for the most radical fringes of the political class.

In Czech Republic, the extreme right is at the origin of the movement which denounces inflation, to better stigmatize immigration. It was she, again, who called to take to the streets on September 5, in Leipzig, Germany, surfing on rancor and resentment.

In Italy, where the Neapolitans burned their bills in the street on September 2, Giorgia Meloni understood it well.

The post-fascist candidate largely won the general elections on 25th September last, after campaigning against both immigration and inflation. A clear signal sent to populists across the Old Continent.

Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal… the wage crisis is shaking up the Old Continent