When will strikes in Dutch public transport come to an end?

Undoubtedly, we are all aware of the fact that on Monday, April 30 and Tuesday, May 1, hardly any busses and trains drove in and around Groningen. Arriva and Qbuzz announced a strike and many travellers could not arrive at their destination. Drivers laid down the work because, in their opinion, the work pressure is too high. They would run shifts for several hours without pauses. As a result, they have no time for a sandwich or a sanitary stop. Soon there will be a new strike. Not only Groningen was affected by the strike, however. On Thursday April 28, the judge decided that the strike could go on. That meant that on the above-mentioned days all the local buses and trains, except for the NS-vehicles, were not moving in the Netherlands.


Time for a change

Strikes are not an unknown phenomenon for most Dutch people. Employees have the right to strike. During 2017, there were many in the elementary education, mostly because of the same reasons as in the public transport: the workers experienced a very high workload and relatively low wages. After long periods of striking, the new cabinet, Rutte III, decided to spend extra money on education in November 2017. Most parents were very excited when the strikes were over, because of all the problems that came along with the strikes.

The driver strike for higher wages and a lower workload

The problem in public transport is comparable. As said before, the drivers are protesting for higher wages and a lower workload. The labor unions indicate that the pressure of work in public transport has strongly increased in recent years. This resulted in very busy work days for drivers. By means of this strike, the trade unions want to put pressure on the employers. According to the trade union FNV, it is time for a change, also for the passengers. They are the victims of the high workload weighing on the drivers and suffer the consequences: for example, delays due to tight driving times.

Large impact

The impact of a single strike in one region is much bigger than it might seem to be at first glance. Imagine an old person, who needs go to the hospital because he or she has waited for this appointment with a specialist for more than three months. A strike could mean that that person will not be able to go. Or an employee, who lives at 50 kilometres from his work and who has an important presentation that day at work and his employer absolutely wants him to be there.

The impact of a single strike in one region is much bigger than it might seem to be at first glance

He could take a cab and claim the extra costs back later on from his employer. His employer would probably not applaud this scenario and together with the employee, they have to look for another solution. Another employee might decide it is not worth the trouble and call in sick for the day. Because this is officially illegal in this case, for many people this ethical dilemma would be a hard one. As you can see, public transport is a really important factor in the life of many Dutch people.

New strikes announced

Unfortunately, on May 19th, bus drivers of Arriva, Hermes, Connexxion, and Syntus/Keolis went on strike again in several regions in southern parts of the Netherlands. This followed another region strike one week earlier in parts of Twente, Utrecht, Arnhem, and Nijmegen. The main reason for the ongoing strikes is that labor union FNV and the specific firms did not come to an agreement during the negotiations. Furthermore, employers’ organisation VWOV (Vereniging Werkgevers Openbaar Vervoer) revealed that FNVs proposal (increase in wages of 4% added on another 8,3% increase, claimed by the FNV earlier), was not reasonable. In reaction, more strikes are planned for the upcoming time. The new collective agreements affect around 12.000 employees. The trade unions require concrete agreements on work pressure. The employees working in the public transport should be protected.

The main reason for the ongoing strikes is that labor union FNV and the specific firms did not come to an agreement during the negotiations

Let us hope for the best

It is very hard to say anything about the outcome of the upcoming negotiations, which will probably take place next month. When we compare this case with different ones in the past, we are inclined to say that an agreement will be announced sooner or later. Until that point in time, it is possible that there will be some more problems with the public transport in the near future. So, let us hope that the problems will be solved soon. Not only for the old lady who has to go to the hospital on a specific day, but also for every random person that feels the need to make use of the bus or train. Let us hope for the best!

Coen Wolters & Marieke Rijpkema