Saliha Belesgaa, president of the staff delegation at Ampacet, challenged the Minister of Labor, Georges Mischo, on Thursday in front of parliament. / © RTL
The social conflict at Ampacet in Dudelange shows no sign of reconciliation, with employees breaking records for the longest strike since Luxembourg's tilers' strike in 1995.
It's been a hectic week for the Luxembourgish labour market, with an unprecedented crisis in the construction sector mobilising the union troops, the takeover of 1,200 employees at the Cargo Centre in Findel raising fears of a major dispute at Luxair, and the social conflict at Ampacet Luxembourg in Dudelange growing between striking employees and management, who spoke out for the first time since the strike began on 27 November.
Friday marked the twelfth day of strike action at the American plastics manufacturer. Ampacet will go down as a record strike in Luxembourg, as it is the longest strike in Luxembourg since the tilers' strike in 1995, which lasted 28 days. In June 2018, the nursing home strike lasted 11 days.
The strike is not about to end, given the tone in which the meeting - organised at the plant on Friday afternoon - ended. The management had called a meeting with the staff delegation to announce that 'from 9 January 2024 the Work Organisation Plan (POT) would be changed, but failed to address the current strike or discuss the reinstatement of a collective agreement', explains Stefan Osorio, deputy central secretary of the OGBL chemicals union, who is disappointed to see management avoiding confrontation.
'Management is now trying to quickly hire staff'
According to the OGBL, management's 'only response' to the strike action 'is to call the police several times a day and try to break the strike by all legal means. It also seems like the company is now trying to quickly hire staff.' If this were an attempt to replace striking employees, it would obviously be totally illegal, adds the OGBL in a press release, promising a reaction.
"We'll still be there at Christmas and beyond if need be", the union declared on Friday, before pointing out that this social conflict needs to be resolved at the negotiating table and not before the courts. After once again denouncing management's silence at a press briefing held on Monday in the snow outside the entrance to the manufacturing plant, where striking employees take turns at work, the OGBL was advised by management's lawyers to exercise the right to strike "in a peaceful manner".
© Annick Goerens
The strikers are preparing for a longer strike, and their determination remains 'absolutely intact' with 'exceptional solidarity', assures the OGBL. They are receiving widespread support from the general public, with 25,000 euros collected by the solidarity fund, as well as from local authorities. The municipalities of Bettembourg, Rumelange and Dudelange have even delivered firewood to the strikers. And a whole series of musicians have offered to hold support concerts.
"We asked the Minister of Labour to assume his responsibilities and issue a reminder to management to respect the social model in Luxembourg. We want him to bring the two parties to the table in a neutral place", added Allain Rolling, central secretary of the chemicals union.
When approached by around thirty Ampacet strikers outside the Chamber, Labour Minister Georges Mischo (CSV) called on both parties to return to the negotiating table on Thursday and explained that if nothing came of it, both would be summoned separately for a meeting. Nonetheless, the minister reminded RTL that it is not the role of the Minister to act as conciliator or facilitator, as this is not assured within the Labour Code.