Mass protest in Rotterdam against budget cuts
20 September 2004 , AMSTERDAM — The centre of Rotterdam almost ground to a standstill on Monday as up to 60,000 people participated in a joint union protest against the Dutch government's socio-economic plans.
20 September 2004
AMSTERDAM — The centre of Rotterdam almost ground to a standstill on Monday as up to 60,000 people participated in a joint union protest against the Dutch government's socio-economic plans.
In the first of two mass demonstrations, public transport in Rotterdam stopped on Monday morning and public servants and port workers went out on strike.
Trade union confederations FNV, CNV and MHP also staged a joint protest in the afternoon and estimated that 60,000 people gathered in front of city hall. Initial police estimates put the numebr at 30,000.
The unions orchestrated the demonstration to protest against the Cabinet's budget cutbacks. Cuts to social security and healthcare have particularly raised the ire of Dutch unions, and a second protest planned for 2 October in Amsterdam is expected to attract 100,000 people.
FNV chief Lodewijk de Waal and opposition political leaders Wouter Bos (Labour PvdA), Jan Marijnissen (Socialist Party) and Femke Halsema (green-left GroenLinks) addressed the gathered protestors in Rotterdam on Monday.
Besides Rotterdam, trams and buses in The Hague stopped operating from 9am. Port workers not only downed tools in Rotterdam, but also in Hoek van Holland and the entire province of Zeeland.
About a 1,000 secondary and tertiary education teachers in Rotterdam, The Hague and Leiden were to go out on strike also, news agency ANP reported.
Workers from more than 100 companies, plus ambulance staff and firefighters, museum employees in Rotterdam and staff of the Erasmus Medical Centre had indicated they would take part in the demonstration also.
The Rotterdam protest was staged on the eve of Prinsjesdag, when the Dutch government presents its annual budget. Much of the budget was leaked to the press last week, revealing that the government intended to continue its massive cost-cutting drive to ward off a "chronic" economic illness.
With the economy still struggling from last year's recession, Finance Minister Gerrit Zalm is expected on Tuesday to unveil EUR 2.5 billion in cuts to take effect next year. Economic growth is expected to be a disappointing 1.25 percent this year and 1.5 percent in 2005.
The government unveiled a record EUR 17 billion in budget cuts last year to be spread out until 2007. Much of Tuesday's additional cuts are already known because the cabinet announced almost EUR 4 billion in additional cuts earlier this year to reduce its budget deficit problems.
Zalm is set to tell Parliament that the Dutch economic recovery is proceeding very slowly because excessive high wage increases in recent years have led to the country being in "arrears" to its competitors.
Furthermore, he is expected to tell MPs that giving the economy an artificial boost is not a real option and most government departments will have to make do with spending cuts. The most vulnerable sections of society will be spared the full impact of the cuts.
[Copyright Expatica News + Novum Nieuws 2004]
Subject: Dutch news