A year of strikes in three months as unions press for better pay deals

Photo: Wikimedia Commons
The first one-day strike in the history of ING bank is scheduled for Thursday. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The Netherlands has had as many strikes in the first three months as in an average year as unions hold out for better pay deals to counter the effects of inflation.

Trade union FNV said the equivalent of 24 stoppages had taken place across all sectors, including bin collectors’ strikes in major cities, walkouts by bus and train drivers and hospital care being reduced to a weekend rota.

Staff at companies including Etos, the Bijenkorf department store chain, PostNL and Douwe Egberts have also staged walkouts, while the first 24-hour strike in the history of ING bank is scheduled for Thursday.

The strikes have yielded results for unions, with healthcare bosses agreeing this week to a two-year pay deal for staff at non-teaching hospitals worth 15% over two years, as well as doubling the rate for travel expenses.

Further strikes that were planned for the healthcare sector have been called off until union members have voted on the deal.

‘Inflation is taking a long time to come down and wages are falling behind, so I expect a tough battle for wages,’ Zakaria Boufangacha, vice-chairman of the FNV union, said.

The council workers’ strike ended in February with a deal worth around 12% for bin collectors and 8% for higher paid staff, plus an extra day’s holiday, while transport sector workers have rejected an 11% pay offer from the employers’ association VWOV.

ING last week improved its initial pay offer to staff of 3% by offering between 4% and 7% from July 1 and a further 3% increase in 2024. Unions say the proposal is not enough to compensate for a 15% drop in spending power since the last time wages were raised in 2019.

‘ING shifted a little last week, but only from very bad to still inadequate,’ CNV negotiator Job Marskamp said.

A spokesman for the bank said it hoped to offer as many banking services as possible on Thursday. ‘We hope to be able to resume talks with the unions in the short term, because it is our collective responsibility to find a way out quickly.’

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