Union membership continues to decline, hits 1963 level

Fewer workers in the Netherlands are members of a union and total membership continues to decline, according to new figures from national statistics agency CBS.

At the end of March this year, 1.4 million people were members of a union, down 63,000 on 2021, and the 11th successive year that numbers have gone down, the CBS said.

Union membership has not been so low since 1963, but the working population is much larger than then. Almost 10 million people are now considered to be part of the workforce.

The research also shows more than half of workers have never considered joining a union and that 12% think membership has no impact on their working conditions. Younger workers are most likely to say they have never considered membership.

Nevertheless, unions have been extremely active this year. The Netherlands had as many strikes in the first three months of 2023 as in an average year as unions held 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 also staged walkouts.

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