Best strike action award for Dutch cleaners

Best strike action award for Dutch cleaners

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A nine-week strike by Dutch public hygiene workers has been designated best union action of the past five years.

At an international trades union conference in Nagasaki, Japan, the worldwide umbrella organisation of 900 trades unions, UNI Global Union, applauded the shape and the result of the cleaners' action.

The industrial action for higher wages was organised earlier this year by a local union leader, Ron Meyer from the southern city of Heerlen.

Garbage strike Amsterdam

Creating support

A Dutch union delegation went to Nagasaki to receive the union campaign "World Cup". Speaking to RNW from the Japanese conference hall, delegation member Judy Lok said that the action's success was mainly due to the strikers' persistence.

In addition, the way in which they campaigned earned the respect of the public. Ms Lok said,

"People supported us, politicians took up our cause, newspapers took our side, all of that helped us win this international prize."

In the end, the cleaning workers got their salary rise, but there were more benefits to be reaped.

Ms Lok, a member of the FNV-AbvaKabo union, said that it is dawning on employers that they should show some respect towards the cleaners. She explained the changed attitudes "have led to curbs on work pressure and to better working conditions, such as the availability of canteen facilities for the workers."

Historic battle
The nine-week strike was the longest since a fishermen's strike in 1933, historian Sjaak van der Velden of the International Institute of Social History (ISG) told reporters.

Garbage strike Amsterdam

It was described as "an historic battle" on the UNI Global Union's website. When the cleaners suspended work, rubbish piled up in public places like railway stations and airports.

Litter bins in university buildings, train interiors and government offices were not emptied and spilled over. After six weeks, employers and unions began tentative talks about the strikers' demands.



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