Hundreds of cleaners launched a sit-in at Utrecht Central Station on Tuesday. They have remained there since, with some staying overnight as well. The station is becoming filthier and filthier, but most commuters support the cleaners, union FNV Bondgenoten reported. Many politicians, action groups and others have visited the station to express their support. Young musicians performed a free harp concerto for the striking cleaners.
The cleaners are now willing to settle for a pay rise of 2% per year in a 2-year contract, instead of 3% per year. The employers offer only 2.5% over a two-year period.
Meanwhile, there are indications that contractors are hesitatingly accepting that they must take responsibility for conditions in the cleaning sector. A spokesperson of Dutch Railways told the Financieele Dagblad that he is in favour of a ‘binding agreement’ on the maximum number of square metres that cleaners should have to clean per hour. He emphasized that his company cannot achieve this by itself. While a few large corporations would be sympathetic to the idea, discussions would still be in a preliminary stage. Ron Meyer of FNV Bondgenoten told the paper that he also had indications that Dutch Railways might be changing its position, but that he had seen nothing concrete on paper yet. “Until then, our actions will continue.”
At the union’s own office, striking cleaners returned to work on Wednesday, after the union signed a covenant. Cleaners will get a 3% pay rise, travel expenses and training opportunities; the union will cover the costs. Meyer said that this route is open to other contractors as well: “Sign a covenant today, and cleaning will resume tomorrow.”
In a motion presented by MP Sadet Karabulut and others which passed this week, Parliament tells the government to ‘use all its influence to move Dutch Railways and Schiphol Group into playing a mediating role’ to end the labour conflict. Last week, progressive parties had argued that the government – a major shareholder in the two companies – should use its influence to prevent them from trying to break the strike. The issue appears to be quite sensitive. Minister Donner reportedly refused to formally inform Parliament of the results of his efforts, because by sending a letter, the government might become a party to the conflict.
Photo Doorbraak / Indymedia