Firms face a heightened risk of disruption because of the impact of the recession on jobs and more active environmental campaigners

Cost cutting measures, factory closures and a substantial rise in unemployment over the next year are likely to trigger strikes and protest across Western Europe, according to a political risk forecast.

A spike in civil unrest is most likely to occur in Italy, Greece, France and the UK in the autumn of 2009, reported Exclusive Analysis.

The sectors the firm believes are most likely to be affected are exporters and manufacturers like the car industry and commercial aviation. Also at high risk are the public sector, energy, construction, railway and ports.

Fortunately for multinational businesses the strikes are likely to occur on a national scale, as coordination between unions on a trans-national level is poor, said the forecast.

The political risk experts also warned that protests by environmentalists are likely to increase in frequency and scale in the lead-up to the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December 2009. In the UK, the aviation sector and companies involved in financing power generation from coal are most likely to be targeted by protests or direct action including site blockades.

Exclusive Analysis also warned that there is a risk of the environmental campaign targeting Shell over its Corrib gas pipeline intensifying and spreading to the UK.

The firm cautioned that the risks to machinery, operations and offices of those companies involved in the pipeline project will increase over the summer.

The reputation risk to Shell is also increasing as the campaign gains more traction with media in the UK. Should a protester get injured while attempting to block the work, a campaign against Shell would be likely in the UK also, said the analysts.

See also:

Protesters disrupt Irish gas pipeline

Unemployment to hit 10% in developed world

Recent cases of civil unrest in Western Europe

June 09, Germany

Around 30 Greenpeace protesters climbed on the dome of a reactor of Lower Saxony's Unterweser nuclear plant to demand the closure of six old reactors.

June, 09 UK

More than 1,700 construction workers at five power plants and refineries staged walkouts.

June 09, UK

In Kent, Greenpeace campaigners boarded a boat delivering coal to the Kingsnorth energy plant.

June 09, France

French fishermen ended a two-day blockade at the ports of Calais, Dunkirk and Boulogne-sur-Mer, after authorities pledged aid worth some €4m.

June 09, Belgium

In and around Brussels, some 600 milk farmers drove their tractors during an EU Summit to protest low milk prices and plans to annul milk quotas.

June 09, Italy

Fiat unveiled plans to stop car production at its Termini Imerese factory in Sicily after 2011 and draft a redundancy scheme for its CNH Global unit.

June 09, France

EDF warned that a 70-day-long pay strike had delayed maintenance work at 6 nuclear energy plants and may jeopardise supplies.

June 09, France

More than 100,000 civil servants and employees demonstrated across France to demand increased measures against the recession.

June 09, France

In Provence, staff at US-owned paper mill Malaucene freed four executives they had been holding captive for 24 hours.

May 09, Greece

In Athens, over 2,000 Muslims protested over claims that a police officer had desecrated a copy of the Qur'an.