Transport strike by Dutch trade unions brings country to a standstill

The unions, including the FNV, the CNV and the VCP, demanded that the government freeze its plan to increase the current retirement age of 65 to 67 by 2021

May 31, 2019 by Peoples Dispatch
Dutch trade union protests

Dutch trade unions went on a massive transport strike on May 28, and observed a ‘national pension action day’ on May 29, demanding that the government freeze the planned increase in retirement age. The Dutch government intends to raise the current retirement age of 65 years to 67 by 2021. The mobilizations were called by several trade unions, including the Dutch Federation of Trade Unions (FNV), the National Federation of Christian Trade Unions in the Netherlands (CNV), and the Trade Union Federation for Professionals (VCP).

The unions called for a national 24-hour strike in various sectors, including metal, industry, construction and living, cleaning, professional goods transport, as well as social work provision. They also gave a call for industrial action in the healthcare, trade, government, and education sectors. A strike was undertaken at the Schiphol airport as well.

On May 29, those taking part in the strike and activists from various sectors gathered at four locations in the country, the Hague, Arnhem, Eindhoven and Groningen. The unions raised several demands, including stalling of the State pension age and cancelling of the fine on early retirement, indexation for all generations, a pension that increases with prices, and a pension for all workers, including the self-employed and people with an insecure contract.

According to reports, the transport strike on May 28 brought the country to a standstill.

The FNV said, “Millions of people with heavy work struggle to get their retirement early. But even now that the economy is doing well, the government is refusing to grant the hard workers a timely pension. Hundreds of thousands of elderly people also feel that pensions have not risen with prices for years. And there is an increasing concern about the number of Dutch people who receive too little or no pension at all. Negative consequences of the transition to a new pension system must be immediately and adequately compensated.”

The New Communist Party of the Netherlands (NCPN) and the Communist Youth Movement (CJB) expressed their solidarity with the trade union strikes and protests.

“The government has systematically broken down the pension system to reduce the costs for employers and themselves [the government is the largest employer in the Netherlands]. It implements the overall strategy set out by the European Union to reduce wage costs and public service expenditure, to fully transfer the costs to the working people,” the NCPN and CJB said in their joint statement.

Earlier, the FNV, CNV and VCP had organized a national action day for better pensions on March 18, in which 40,000 people had participated.

The linking of the retirement age to life expectancy has become a recent trend in Europe. Recently, workers demonstrated against the rise in retirement age in different European countries, including Russia and Denmark.