Thu May 13th, 2010 at 10:35:47 AM EST
This is how two major cities in the Netherlands currently look like:
And it ain't over yet.
Waste collection has stopped in both cities since May 6. On top of that, any street cleaning in Utrecht has ceased since the end of Queen's Day, a national holiday celebrated with reverie on the streets, guaranteeing litter by the heaps. The only exception have been the streets perused for the Giro d'Italia, as the men and women on strike don't particularly take pride in seeing the waste pile up in their cities. We're 6 days further, not a bin has been lifted, the stink is beginning to set in. The strikes have been extended for another week.
The cause of the conflict: the annual negotiations for a collective agreement on pay and working conditions between workers and employers. The employers here being the cities, and the apparent crux being a (measly sounding) 1.5 % pay raise for the employers.
These strikes come in the wake of one of the longest, and most successful, strike actions by cleaning personnel who also were negotiating for a better collective agreement two months previous. (And they were rightly so, IMO, after having been squeezed for profit for years by their companies.) For nine weeks on end, trains and train station were not cleaned, occasional rallies and manifestations featured on train stations, the interior of trains got more and more gritty, waste bins began to overflow and Central Station in Amsterdam soon felt part of an underdeveloped country.
But public sentiment remained very high, with the exception of occasional neoliberal fundamentalists pissing their acid in public forums (and sometimes I suspect these are people who are paid for writing that sort of goo). Best of all: the personnel got what they wanted: a raise of 3.5 percent to start with, and also the guarantee for an important covenant on equal working rights not for the employing companies, but also for the large companies who are their clients.
The success of the previous strike action may have strengthened the resolve of the waste collectors and encouraged them to "dump" action on the streets. The value and services of waste collectors is lying on the streets in Amsterdam and Utrecht for anyone to see.
Up next in an already restless negotiation season: negotiations for public servants.
Pictures from NOS website and NRC Handelsblad.