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25 September 2018

The Netherlands: the year 2017 brought highest strike number since 1989

Data provided by the Dutch statistical office CBS reveal that 2017 was a year with increased industrial action. Over a longer period, the data show a higher number of strikes, with more workers participating. One of the longest disputes that started in November 2017 was finally settled in September 2018.

The statistical office CBS published data on the strike frequency and participation. The year 2017 brought more strikes, with more workers participating. According to the published data, 32 strikes took place in 2017, the highest number of strikes since 1989. CBS noted that the number of strikes in 2017 increased with 7 compared to the number of strikes in 2016. The number of lost working labour days, as a result of the strikes, amounted to more than 306,000 days (against 19,000 days in 2016). This is the highest number in a period of 20 years.

The provided statistics also show that industrial actions are on the increase since 2011, with an exceptional dip in 2016. The number of workers participating in strikes also increased substantially, from 11,000 in 2016 to 147,000 in 2017. The data specify some of the characteristics of the strikes, such as the sector or industry involved, the kind of dispute, the strike period and the way the strike ended. More than 40% of the strikes took place in manufacturing, followed by transport and logistics (37%). A majority of the disputes was related to bargaining issues on pay and working conditions and 25 out of 32 strikes were called by the trade unions. The number of short strikes of more than one working day, but less than five, is increasing. Three-quarter of the disputes ended through (different forms of) negotiations.    

The companies that were among the most affected by strikes in 2017 were Unox, Vomar, Bakkersland. Holland Casino, KLM and Jumbo supermarkets. The strike with the biggest impact was the strike in the education sector. In October 2017, 10,000 primary school teachers took a day off to rally in The Hague for higher salaries. One dispute in regional public transport on pay and work pressure was only recently settled with an agreement. The dispute started in November 2017 as a result of failed negotiations between the transport trade unions and regional transport providers such as Arriva, Connexxion, Qbuzz, Keolis and EBS. The dispute led to a series of strikes and walk-outs. The regional public transport draft agreement concluded in July 2018 was balloted among the membership. It was controversial, but trade union FNV announced early September that the deal was accepted with a 60% yes-vote.  

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