Public transport workers in the four big cities of Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Utrecht and The Hague went on strike today in protest at government plans to open tram and bus services to market forces.
The strike, which began at 9am and was set to end at 4pm, had been announced in advance and caused little disruption for customers – although train passengers endured large queues for taxis in Amsterdam.
The workers are angry at plans to force the big cities to put their tram and bus services out to public tender on eight-year contracts.
The government says this will improve efficiency and lead to more customer-friendly public transport. It believes allowing companies to compete for contracts will cut costs by between 10% and 30%. Regional bus transport has already been contracted out for some six years to the state-owned Connexxion, who still control the bulk of the concessions.
The transport unions – who held a mass picket close to parliament this afternoon – called on the government to put its plans on ice for two years. They argue that privatisation leads to worse services for passengers and worse pay deals for workers.
Egon Groen, spokesman for trade union confederation FNV Bondgenoten, told BNR Nieuwsradio there were too many examples of where things had gone wrong, especially in areas where rural bus services had been contracted out.
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