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Europe’s summer travel strikes: Everything you need to know

Workers across Europe are walking out to protest low pay and poor working conditions.

Europe is a hive of strike action right now, with many employees unhappy that sky-high inflation has not been matched by higher wages.

Walkouts are planned all over Europe, showing that it always pays to check before you travel.

Luckily, we have gathered all of the strike information together below.

Read on to find out where and when are walkouts taking place.

If your flight or train is cancelled or delayed, you will be entitled to a new ticket or compensation. Read our guide for the full details.

Europe: Air traffic controllers to vote over a potential deal

Union Syndicale Bruxelles (USB), a union which represents EU civil servants, has reached a deal in principle with Eurocontrol to prevent weeks of strikes this summer. 

The offer has been put to a vote by union members and USB is hoping for a “positive outcome to the vote” after which the ‘pre-warning’ for industrial action will be withdrawn. 

Staff at Eurocontrol, which manages Europe’s skies, threatened industrial action that could begin with just five days’ notice at any point over the next six months. 

The staff involved work at Eurocontrol’s network management centre. This location plays a vital role in ensuring the efficiency of air traffic control across the continent. It validates aircraft’s flight plans and checks tens of thousands of messages per day. 

USB says that it has threatened strikes due to a row over a 25 per cent shortage in staff, management behaviour and an imposed roster system. 

France: Travellers warned about ongoing French protests

Unions across France have been in an ongoing battle against an increase in the legal retirement age from 62 to 64.

Protests broke out across the country after President Emmanuel Macron decided to push through the change without a parliamentary vote. Strikes have been ongoing since January and have heavily impacted travel. 

While the pace of industrial action has slowed down, air traffic controller strikes are still having an impact with budget airline Ryanair having to cancel 900 flights in June. 

Delays and limited flights over the country are also causing more airspace congestion across Europe, leading to further disruption. 

England: Summer rail and airport strikes

Security staff have called off strikes at London Heathrow Airport after voting to accept a pay offer. 

More than 2,000 staff were due to strike for 31 days this summer. The industrial action would have coincided with the beginning of the school holidays and the August bank holiday in the UK. 

Passengers were worried that it could lead to a repeat of the chaos seen at airports last year. 

But now strikes have been called off, Heathrow has said it is looking forward to delivering an “excellent summer” for travellers. 

Gatwick Airport workers call off strikes

Planned strikes at London’s Gatwick Airport have been called off after three of the four involved firms accepted new pay offers. The fourth firm is currently voting on a deal.

The companies involved – Menzies Aviation, ASC, GGS and DHL Services – supply ground workers and baggage handlers to the airport, and strikes would’ve seen considerable disruption to the transport hub at its busiest time of year.

Nearly 1,000 workers from the four companies were set to walk out for eight days this summer in an argument over pay. 

Gatwick DHL (who handle easyJet flights) accepted a 15 per cent pay increase earlier this week, along with increased wages for night shifts. ASC Cargo Handling (who handle flights for Tui) and Menzies Aviation workers (Wizz Air) will no longer be going on strike.

There is still a possibility that your flight could be affected however with easyJet cancelling 1,700 trips in preparation for the strike. If you plan to travel between 4 and 8 August check with your airline to make sure your flight is still going ahead. 

Birmingham Airport strikes

After security guards and technicians at Birmingham Airport called off strikes last month, a fresh round of disruption is on the table.

Refuelling tanker drivers and operators, who refuel over three quarters of planes at the airport, rejected a pay offer on Tuesday (1 August).

As a result, “All out indefinite strike action will begin on Tuesday 15 August leading to cancelled flights,” says union Unite. 

This could potentially impact flights with TUI, easyJet, Wizz Air, Ryanair, Lufthansa and Emirates.

Rail strikes across the UK

Train drivers have announced a fresh overtime ban from 31 July to 5 August in “action short of a strike”.

It will see Aslef union members at 15 train companies refuse to work overtime, which has previously led to schedule changes and reduced services. Hundreds of trains are likely to be cancelled each day with the industrial action affecting most of London’s commuter lines and major rail operators like Avanti West Coast, LNER and CrossCountry.

The London Underground and Elizabeth Line will remain unaffected. 

The UK’s biggest rail union, RMT and Aslef say that many train drivers have not had a pay rise in four years. They are demanding an increase in pay to account for the current high level of inflation. 

Italy: Strikes across public transport and airports in July

Transport strikes aren’t unusual in Italy during the summer. Industry regulations provide a summer exemption which means there will be no air transport strikes between 27 July and 5 September

For now, there is no other transport strike action planned in Italy but it is always worth checking before you travel. 

Belgium: Ryanair pilots warn of further strikes

Belgium-based Ryanair pilots went on strike last weekend causing the cancellation of nearly 100 flights. 

Two trade unions – CNE and ACV Puls – and the pilots’ union Beca walked out at Charleroi airport on 29 and 30 July. The strike notice runs until October 2024 with CNE union members warning that industrial action is likely to continue.

“We apologise in advance to passengers planning to travel with Ryanair between now and October 2024 who may be affected by these strikes,” the unions said in a press release prior to the initial strike.

“But we can no longer allow Ryanair to violate the basic principles of Belgian social dialogue.”

Ryanair allegedly told pilots in the country that it wanted to cancel an agreement on working hours and rest. They also agreed to a 20 per cent pay cut at the start of the pandemic which is still in place. 

Greece: Wildfires prompt package holiday cancellations and evacuations

While Greece is not currently affected by transport strikes, wildfires on the islands of Rhodes and Corfu have led to evacuations and holiday cancellations.

For more information on the current situation, check out our Greece travel advice.

Portugal: Ground staff to strike at airports across the country

Ground staff at Portugal’s airports are planning to strike from 5 to 6 August. They are pushing for increased pay when working during holidays. 

The walkout is likely to cause delays in checking in, clearing security and reclaiming your baggage. Flight delays could also be possible. 

But, due to government requirements on minimum levels of service, Lisbon and Porto airports are likely to be minimally affected for the duration of the strike.  

Spain: Airport security guards announce indefinite strike in Barcelona

Airport security staff at Barcelona-El Prat Airport have announced an indefinite strike starting on 10 August.

Unless averted, the walkouts are set to take place at peak times, from Thursdays through Mondays between 4-7am and 9-11am and 4-6pm.

This is likely to lead to security check delays, so be sure to leave extra time for travel.

The strikes are in protest over working conditions and wages.

If you know of a big strike happening in your country that we have missed, we’d love to hear from you via Twitter.

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