There are many good articles in the Libcom library about the strikes during WW2 in the USA, but there seems to be none about the rest of the countries (at least not articles solely about them, maybe some more general articles mention independent workers actions too, don't know, haven't read them all.)
At first I was curious about the UK because from somewhere I had got the impression that there was relative labour peace in the UK and thought that maybe US workers were more militant because the war was further away from them and there was no real risk of invasion so they were more willing to fight and that workers in the UK and Europe were way more patriotic because the war happened at their doorstep. Fortunately I as wrong - a quick googling and I found these 2 articles:
Until 1941 when the Soviet Union entered the war, communists in Britain, having little commitment to the war effort, refused to be bound by the national unity consensus and in particular the ban on strike action. During the first few months of the war, there were over 900 strikes, almost all of them very short but illegal nonetheless. Despite the provisions of Order 1305 there were very few prosecutions until 1941 since Bevin, anxious to avoid the labour unrest of the First World War, sought to promote conciliation rather than conflict. The number of strikes increased each year until 1944, almost half of them in support of wage demands and the remainder being defensive actions against deteriorations in workplace conditions. Coal and engineering were particularly affected. A strike in the Betteshanger colliery in Kent in 1942 prompted the first mass prosecutions under Order 1305. Three officials of the Betteshanger branch were imprisoned and over a thousand strikers were fined. Such repression and the general 'shoulders to the wheel' approach to industrial production in support of the war effort (strongly backed by the Communist Party after 1941) did not stop strikes. The fact that so many strikes took place in the mining industry was due in the main to the fact that the designation of coal mining as essential war work entailed the direction of selected conscripts to work in the mines ('Bevin boys'). This was very unpopular among regular miners.
In 1943 there were two major stoppages, one was a strike of 12,000 bus drivers and conductors and the other of dockers in Liverpool and Birkenhead. Both were a considerable embarrassment to Bevin since they involved mainly TGWU members. 1944 marked the peak of wartime strike action with over two thousand stoppages involving the loss of 3,714,000 days' production. This led to the imposition of Defence Regulation 1AA, supported by the TUC, which now made incitement to strike unlawful.
from here: http://www.unionhistory.info/timeline/1939_1945.php
Glasgow: Rolls Royce Hillington women workers equal pay
Many thousands of women were recruited to wartime industry. In 1940, the engineering federation agreed that women would receive equal pay after 32 weeks in post. 20,000 women were employed at the Rolls Royce Hillington site in Glasgow. Rolls Royce evaded the 1940 equal pay formula and were challenged by the AEU in 1943. They settled. But 16,000 women (and some men) refused to accept the deal and walked out for over a week. They won a new agreement which specified every machine in the factory, the work done on it, and the rate for the job, regardless of who was operating the equipment.
In 1944 underground miners were earning £5 per day and their wage tribunal refused to raise piece rates. When the Government announced that the national average industrial manual wage had reached £6 10s, miners came out on unofficial strike in South Wales, Kent, Lancashire, Yorkshire, Durham, and Scotland - some 220,000 in South Wales and Yorkshire alone. With the invasion of France looming, the press attacked the miners.
A South Wales miner of 30 years standing commented “... The argument that a strike would let our soldiers down was countered by men who had brothers and sons in the forces who, so they claimed, had urged them to fight and maintain their customs or privileges. They argued that they must retain something for those absent ones to come back to, while the suggestion that we should wait for further negotiations was swamped by the reply that we had already waited a long while...”
In fact the Government was compelled to intervene, restored differentials, and the miners won the highest minimum wage in Britain. Their average earnings ranked 81st in 1938, but rose to 14th after the strikes.
Kent: Betteshanger Colliery bonus payments
On 10 July 1940 the government introduced Defence Regulation 58AA allowing the Minister of Labour to ban strikes and lockouts, and force compulsory arbitration. Order 1305 then allowed the Minister to refer any dispute to existing arbitration structures or the National Arbitration Tribunal - either alternative was to be binding. But as the Chief Industrial Commissioner recognised “The Order has a substantial deterrent effect but it is an instrument which would probably be shown to be useless if any considerable body of workpeople chose to defy it.” He was right.
On 9 January 1942 miners at Betteshanger Colliery in Kent struck over the level of allowances for working difficult seams. The Ministry of Labour decided to prosecute 1,050 miners for contravening Order 1305. Three local union officials were imprisoned, the men working difficult seams were fined £3 each, and 1,000 other miners were fined £1 each. Betteshanger continued their strike and other pits came out in sympathy. On 28 January they won, and in February the Home Secretary dropped the prison sentences. By May, only 9 miners had paid their fines. Most fines were never paid.
Tyneside: closed shop
On Tyneside at the beginning of 1943 workers at the Neptune ship repair yard came out for six weeks over the refusal of five men at their firm to join the Amalgamated Engineering Union. They received massive support from workers in other firms and trades, and forced their employers to concede a ‘closed shop’ agreement, setting a national precedent.
London: aircraft engineers
Workers at the former Chrysler factory converted to make Halifax bomber tail fins were subject to Essential Works Orders banning all industrial action. In 1943 they challenged management policy of locking the gates at 8:30 for the morning by threatening to turn up en masse at 8:31. Management threatened to use the Order, but then capitulated.
The workforce went on to challenge management attempts to control union representation on the works committee, and after winning that forced an increase in the minimum wage for maintenance workers.
Many of the women workers had partners in the Forces. One commented: “If I don’t fight for conditions and wages or let them get worse, my husband will kill me when he comes home”.
Engineering Apprentices: pay
The first major wartime dispute took place in 1941. It involved engineering apprentices, first on Clydeside and then in Coventry, Lancashire and London.
An Apprentices’ Charter, developed by the Clyde strike committee in 1937, called for higher pay, district-wide age-wage minimum pay scales, a right to part-time technical education on day release, a reasonable proportion of apprentices to journeymen, and a right to union representation. An Engineers’ Charter had been put forward by the AEU in 1929 in pursuit of improved terms and conditions in the industry.
The unions had previously submitted a succession of claims to the Engineering Employers Federation without success. Now the apprentices marched from factory to factory bringing out their workmates. In Coventry they included women at the local munitions factory in the campaign. The strike wave finally destroyed the log-jam in national negotiations. In weeks, agreement was reached on higher age-wage scale rates.
As the war progressed, the number of strikes skyrocketed to reach a record 2,194 stoppages with 3,700,000 days lost in 1944. Of course not all such strikes ended in victory - but neither do all strikes in peacetime.
During the Spring of 1943, soldiers serving in the 8th Army responded to pressure to denounce strikes back home. The 8th Army News ran an article headlined “The Right to Strike is one of the Freedoms we fight for”.
from here: http://www.labournet.net/ukunion/0305/wartime1.html
So firstly I had the question, does anybody know more about independent workers action during the war years and right after the war in the UK? A more comprehensive article somewhere perhaps from a more radical perspective?
Also, I couldn't find anything on other warring countries, maybe such material exists mainly in their native languages as a quick google search in English came up with nothing.
I know there was a strike wave in Italy in '43 (?) which was after the collapse of the fascist government and I remember from some article sth about a strike after the Soviets occupied Hungary in '45 by some workers from a rather militant factory in Budapest (?) who were at the forefront of the class war in '18 and '56 as well. Other than that I have to admit I don't know much.
I would appreciate if somebody could point me to some articles about strikes etc during or right after WW2 in Europe and the rest of the world - I'm especially interested in USSR and the territories it occupied after the war, Japan and Germany.