Unions warn of more strikes against budget cuts

7th October 2004, Comments 0 comments

7 October 2004, AMSTERDAM — Trade union confederations in the Netherlands have warned of a new wave of strikes in the public sector to oppose the government's planned budget cuts.

7 October 2004

AMSTERDAM — Trade union confederations in the Netherlands have warned of a new wave of strikes in the public sector to oppose the government's planned budget cuts.

Speaking at a press conference in Utrecht on Thursday, leaders of the FNV, CNV and MHP confederations announced that the groups preparing to strike include the police, teachers and care workers.

The unions are planning a public transport strike, probably on 14 October. A decision on a definite date for the work stoppage has yet to be made.

Last Saturday, an estimated 300,000 people took part in a demonstration in Amsterdam's Museumplein to protest against the stringent budget cuts for 2005. Many were particularly angered by plans to remove tax breaks for early retirement schemes.

There were large-scale one-day strikes in Rotterdam and Amsterdam in late September. An estimated 60,000 people answered the unions' call in Rotterdam and the public transport system was completely shut down for a day.

Trade unionists feel that the new strikes are necessary because so far the coalition government is not prepared to retreat from its plans.

But it did accept amendments drawn up by MPs from the government parties that cut EUR 1.1 billion from the amount the Cabinet planned to save next year.

FNV leader Lodewijk de Waal has said the compromise plan — which reserves planned cuts to the education funding — does not go far enough.

De Waal has also turned down an olive branch from Finance Minister Gerrit Zalm, who said he was willing to sit down with the unions to discuss the "levensloopregeling" — a scheme which would allow employees to save up time off to pursue training courses.

De Waal described Zalm's offer as worthless and a diversion from the main issue.

The union movement sent a letter to the Dutch Lower House of Parliament, or Tweede Kamer, on Thursday in which it called on MPs not to ignore the "signal from three hundred thousand demonstrators".

The leader of the Christian CNV, Doekle Terpstra, indicated strikes were a sensitive subject. Earlier this week, he said he had mixed feelings about striking as a political tool because employers rather than the government would be the first to suffer.

"So much energy was unleashed by the demonstration [in Amsterdam] on 2 October that it can't be ignored," he said Thursday. The CNV, he said, would decide on a case-by-case basis whether to call on its members to come out on strike in a particular sector.

"People need a safety valve," he added.

Letters have also been sent to employers' groups to invite them to rejoin talks with the unions.

[Copyright Expatica News 2004]

Subject: Dutch news

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