Union density in Dutch supermarkets is probably around ten percent. However, a distribution centre in Beilen, as much as 80% of permanent staff are members of FNV Bondgenoten. Recently, 50% of agency workers - generally between the ages of 16 and 25 - joined the union as well.
It all started about three years ago, explains Bart Plaatje, FNV Bondgenoten activist. As a result of restructuring at the local Laurus (now Super de Boer) supermarket, many jobs were at risk. Spontaneous actions had the result that remaining staff could keep their jobs.
Plaatje was inspired by the organising approach developed by unions in America. Workers are asked which issues are important to them and subsequently, campaigns are organised around these issues. “But it’s not like we’re involved in fights on a daily basis”, Plaatje says. “The work needs to be done as well”.
A few weeks ago, a number of agency workers approached the union, asking whether it could support them. Hold a meeting with sixty people and we will discuss it, Plaatje said. The meeting has taken place by now. Problems that have been reported, such as work pressure and agency workers having to work without protective clothing, will now be addressed.
Staff at the Albert Heijn branch in Zaandam also want to adopt the organising approach as practised in Beilen, and staff at the Scapino shoe chain are interested as well.
More information. Photo: Anita Imming