Unions call mass strike against government cuts

25th August 2004, Comments 0 comments

25 August 2004 , AMSTERDAM — Trade union confederations FNV, CNV and MHP have called for a mass strike on 20 September in Rotterdam as part of rolling protest campaign against the Dutch government's socio-economic policies.

25 August 2004

AMSTERDAM — Trade union confederations FNV, CNV and MHP have called for a mass strike on 20 September in Rotterdam as part of rolling protest campaign against the Dutch government's socio-economic policies.

The union movement expects at least 20,000 protestors to gather on the Coolsingel in Rotterdam on the eve of Prinsjesdag on 21 September when the government will unveil its 2005 Budget.

Federation chiefs Doekle Terpstra (CNV), Lodewijk de Waal (FNV) and Ad Verhoeven (MHP) launched the campaign in The Hague on Tuesday. The unions have agreed coordinated action under the slogan "The Netherlands deserves better".

Union anger has been sparked in part by the government's refusal to lower the age that workers can take fiscally advantageous early retirement, one of the concessions laid down by unions before agreeing last year to a two-year wage freeze.

Furthermore, the labour movement is disgruntled over cutbacks to the WAO worker disability pension scheme and WW unemployment benefits. Purchasing power is also set to decline, with disadvantaged groups forecast to lose 2 percent next year.

Faced with a struggling economy and a worrying budget deficit, the government is committed to budget cuts extending to almost EUR 21 billion between now and 2007. It sees the cuts as a necessary step to restore economic stability and government finances.

But the unions claim the government is not listening to their demands and the combined protest campaign has been described as "an historic and unique moment" because the three confederations have not co-operated for many years.

They intend to mobilise the public against the government's attacks on social security, with CNV chief Terpstra claiming the Cabinet has inflicted extraordinary "socio-economic damage", newspaper De Volkskrant reported

The campaign against the Cabinet started on Wednesday morning as officials began handing out about 200,000 pamphlets to commuters at an estimated 11 train stations, newspaper De Telegraaf reported.

And FNV-affiliated trade union Abvakabo said public sector workers will account for about half of the protestors in Rotterdam.

A spokesman said firefighters and ambulance personnel are willing to join the industrial action in Rotterdam. Anger at government policy is broadening and a large number of government and local council workers, plus health sector staff are expected to stop work on 20 September.

The spokesman said it has been arranged with public transport authority RET for trams and busses to stop running. It is intended that public transport will grind to a halt soon after the morning peak-hour and start again before the evening rush period.

Besides the Rotterdam protest, a demonstration will also be held on 2 October on Museumplein in Amsterdam, where tens of thousands are expected to participate. The Amsterdam demonstration is designed as the highlight of the entire campaign.

Regional protests will also be staged in coming weeks and the internet website nederlandverdientbeter.nl has been established as unions get vocal against the government's plans.

[Copyright Expatica News 2004]

Subject: Dutch news

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