It is restless in the polder, here and there there are strikes or there is a threat of labor unrest. The largest union, the FNV, smells blood and goes to the barricades everywhere. There is a danger that others will pay the price for this.
The unions are back. They play a major role in the current unrest in the polder and can be found here and there on the barricades. Such as in regional transport last week, this week with the strike of garbage collectors in Groningen and at the coffee roasters of Douwe Egberts in Joure. The demand is everywhere for higher wages and better working conditions. The central wage demand of the largest union, FNV, is 14.3 percent. It was set in November last year, amid sky-high inflation. The monetary devaluation is already on the way back and is now 7.6 percent, according to Statistics Netherlands.
The hard course of the FNV sometimes pays off. At the end of last year, the management of the NS bowed to the demands of the strikers after six days of actions that completely disrupted train traffic and agreed to a substantial wage increase. That apparently tasted like more. But successes elsewhere failed to materialise. At the beginning of this year, two large collective labor agreements were concluded in quick succession without the FNV getting a foot in the door: in the retail sector and at PostNL. Other unions, such as the more moderate CNV, took off with the spoils. And in regional transport, employers do not budge and threaten new work interruptions.
The hard attitude of the FNV does not come out of the blue. The union sees that many employees want to be compensated for the high inflation that eats away their purchasing power. While a number of companies are making mega profits, many wages have hardly been raised for years. This despite calls to do so from Klaas Knot of De Nederlandsche Bank and Prime Minister Rutte. So the union comes with a hefty wage demand. Also bearing in mind the fact that this arrangement has paid off in recent months. For the first time in years, the FNV is making membership gains again.
The question is whether the popularity of the rapidly aging FNV will last, especially now that inflation is falling and many employees who want a better collective labor agreement simply take another job. There is a danger that others will pay the price for this struggle. For example, the travelers in public transport, who may soon be without transport for days.