Unions suspend Dutch public transport strikes to resume negotiations
The Netherlands Trade Union Confederation (FNV) and Christian National Trade Union (CNV) have announced a temporary suspension of the national public transport strikes so that negotiations with employers can be resumed. For now, Wednesday, March 15 will mark the final day of strikes.
Regional strikes in the Netherlands halted from March 16 to 24
The current six-week period of public transport strikes kicked off on February 28, with FNV and CNV announcing that a total of 15 strike days would take place between the end of February and April 7. With unions fighting for higher salaries, better work contracts and reduced workloads, a representative for FNV explained at the time that industrial action was the only way for workers to get their message across, and that operators were the only ones with the power to stop the strikes.
Since February 28, the Netherlands has seen a total of seven strike days, including Wednesday, March 15. But those who have been affected by the walkouts will likely be relieved to hear that an end could be in sight, as FNV and CNV have halted the strikes for eight days so that negotiations with employers can be resumed.
March 15 therefore marks the final day of strikes, at least for the time being. The strike days that were scheduled to take place on March 20, 22 and 24 have been cancelled. “[On Monday] we sat down with the employers for the first time in almost two months. That was an important first step,” Hanane Chikhi, a CNV negotiator, said in a statement. “Now we would like to give the process with the negotiators a fair chance.”
Decision to strike on election day met with serious backlash
While city-wide operators like the GVB in Amsterdam, RET in Rotterdam and HTM in The Hague aren’t affected, passengers outside of the major cities have faced significant disruption to regional public transport services as a result of the strikes. In fact, Arriva has announced that hardly any of its buses and trains are running on March 15, affecting public transport services in Groningen, Friesland, Limburg and Gelderland, and in parts of Brabant and South Holland.
The decision to go ahead with Wednesday’s strike has faced significant criticism, with parties pointing out that many will depend on public transport in order to get to the polls for the provincial and water board elections on March 15. Unions, however, argued that it was impossible to cancel Wednesday's strike on such short notice, as not enough employees were willing or able to work.
Dutch Interior Minister Hanke Bruins Slot was one of the many people who voiced their frustration with the situation, calling it “really annoying and disappointing”. “[Striking is] of course a fundamental right…[but] casting your vote in a democracy is also an extremely important fundamental right.”
Thumb: Bjoern Wylezich via Shutterstock.com.