Saturday, 13 March 2010

Update on the Dutch cleaners’ strike

On 23 February, about 1,000 cleaners went on strike to demand a 3% wage increase, travel expenses, training opportunities and to be treated with respect. Cleaners at stations and in trains have continued the strike since, and cleaners at offices and Schiphol Airport have joined them. On 9 March, over 1,000 cleaners attended a protest at Schiphol.
Last Friday, Ron Meyer of union FNV Bondgenoten announced that new objects will be included in the strike, including the office of his own union in Utrecht.
Contractors and cleaning companies have made a number of attempts to break the strike, both legally and illegally. Dutch Railways has called on its own managers to clean trains.
Alerted by FNV Bondgenoten, the Labour Inspectorate has found that cleaning company EW has illegally hired agency workers to replace striking cleaners. The union is considering legal action.
In collaboration with FNV Bondgenoten, an official of public sector union Abvakabo FNV has prevented a telecom company from using strikebreakers.
In a rather nasty move, cleaning company CSU has told its cleaners who work at Amsterdam’s Central Station to report to the employers’ office and present their ID, residence permit and other documents. CSU claims that its crackdown on undocumented workers is unrelated to the strike going on at Amsterdam CS, but its timing is conspicuous to say the least. Syndicalists have announced a protest at the CSU office in Amsterdam Zuidoost on Monday morning.
At the request of MP Sadet Karabulut (Socialist Party), Parliament has held a debate on Thursday on the efforts of Dutch Railways and Schiphol Airport to break the strike. Left-wing parties urged the government to pressurise these largely state-owned companies into handling the labour conflict in a fair manner. Minister Piet Hein Donner (CDA) said that he was concerned about the ‘vulnerable position’ of cleaners on the labour market, but declined to make any concrete promises.
The union has announced that more controversial - but legal – actions are to be expected.
Send the negotiator of the cleaning companies a protest card here. Photo: © Gonca Akyar.

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