Cleaners want respect and decent pay and if necessary, they plan to use direct action methods to get it. Last monday, they asked for community support at a meeting at the Broeinest.
Four cleaners involved in the campaign explained they want to be treated with respect. Instead, employers make last-minute changes in working hours, discriminate against ethnic minority cleaners and do not pay correct wages. If cleaners report sick, they are pressurised to work anyway, or co-workers are made to do the extra work.
Cleaners who complain are threatened with dismissal. Organising efforts are thwarted, for example by having a company outing at the day of a union meeting.
In order to improve the cleaners’ position, trade union FNV Bondgenoten has launched an organising campaign. During the past months, the union has been creating worker committees at Schiphol and in the Hague, Utrecht and Maastricht. Now, the cleaners are asking for community support.
The idea is to ask nicely first. If that does not yield results, the campaign will be escalated. While the objectives are serious, “we also try to have fun here”, organiser Valery Alzaga explained.
Alzaga has been seconded to the Netherlands by American trade union SEIU, which is setting up an international network of organising campaigns in the services sector. It works with unions in countries including the UK, Australia, South Africa, Poland, China, India and Germany.
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