Unions say Amsterdam rally was big success
27 September 2004 , AMSTERDAM — More than 10,000 protestors demonstrated on Dam Square in Amsterdam against the Dutch government's budget cuts on Monday, but the feared chaos after public transport staff went on strike for the day did not materialise.
27 September 2004
AMSTERDAM — More than 10,000 protestors demonstrated on Dam Square in Amsterdam against the Dutch government's budget cuts on Monday, but the feared chaos after public transport staff went on strike for the day did not materialise.
The protestors included firefighters and soldiers in uniform. Port workers, staff of aerospace company Stork and employees at various Amsterdam hospitals were also involved in the Dam Square rally, news agency ANP reported.
Firefighters used two brigade trucks in the demonstration, ignoring a call by Interior Ministry Johan Remkes not to use service equipment.
Trade union confederation chiefs Lodewijk de Waal and Doekle Terpstra (CNV) addressed the crowd at the Dam and told them that the labour movement will continue its campaign of industrial action in coming weeks.
As resistance to the Cabinet's socio-economic policies continues to grow, the campaign will culminate in a demonstration — involving an estimated 100,000 people — in the Dutch capital on 2 October. Monday's 24-hour strike represented a hardening of the campaign, newspaper Trouw noted.
Faced with struggling economy, the Dutch government last week unveiled EUR 2.5 billion in budget cuts for 2005. Finance Minister Gerrit Zalm said the cuts will create a stronger economy in the long term.
Disgruntled Dutch unions are campaigning primarily against cuts to social security — such as WW unemployment benefits and the WAO worker disability pension — fiscally attractive early retirement schemes and healthcare.
And workers with public transport company GVB were to continue the strike on Monday evening, despite a request from Amsterdam Council to end it earlier than scheduled.
The council had hoped public transport would assist the flow of people to the Amsterdam ArenA, where the "farewell concert" for Andre Hazes will be held. Hazes died of a heart attack last Thursday.
Instead, fans of the popular Dutch crooner will be forced to find out means of transport. Thousands of fans had assembled by Monday afternoon and Dutch national rail operator NS expected to transport 30,000 people to the concert.
At Dam Square, both De Waal and Terpstra said they felt supported by the turnout for the demonstration in Amsterdam and other such protests. Up to 60,000 people participated in a protest in Rotterdam last week and other protests were held in The Hague, Utrecht, Eindhoven and Arnhem.
"The indifference is gone. Citizens are going against the Cabinet head on," Terpstra said.
Meanwhile, trams, buses and metros were not operating in Amsterdam on Monday, nor were the ferries between Central Station and North Amsterdam. Regional bus transport in North Holland also ground to a halt.
The strike started at 3am and will continue until midnight, but the motorways around Amsterdam were not noticeably busier than normal. No exceptional traffic jams were recorded, newspaper De Telegraaf reported.
It was only busier than normal near the IJ tunnel due to the fact that the ferries to North Amsterdam were not operating. One part of the tunnel was thus closed to vehicles to allow pedestrians and cyclists to make use of the tunnel.
NS trains operated as normal to and from Amsterdam, but it was quieter than usual at Central Station. Many rail commuters continued their journeys by foot or taxi. For NS services, check the website www.ns.nl.
Transport authority GVB said 3,500 of its 4,500 workers were participating in Monday's strike. The strikers were public transport operators and the remaining 1,000 of the company's employees are administrative workers.
Bus drivers with regional bus company Connexxion were also on strike. In the morning, some 500 drivers or 90 percent of the firm's workers indicated they would go out on strike.
Other public sector workers were also striking in the capital on Monday. There was to be no regular rubbish collections in most parts of Amsterdam for the day. Many district council offices closed or only operated a minimal service.
[Copyright Expatica News 2004]
Subject: Dutch news