This corona-proof strike shows how trade unions have risen to the challenge of the pandemic and how it has sparked creativity in mobilising to defend workers’ interests.
Last week, thousands of employees in the metal and electronics industry began strike action that is set to last for several weeks. They do so to protest against the position of employers' organisation, FME, in the negotiations for a new collective labour agreement.
FNV and CNV have had to resort to industrial action on several occasions recently, in order to reach an acceptable collective agreement. The action that started on Thursday, 21 January, comes with a difference. This time, the strike is organised during a pandemic and special measures are enforced in order to avoid transmission of COVID-19. Strikers are called upon to register in a special ‘strike street’, which they can drive through by car. After registration, they return home. This is a very safe and effective way of organising a strike.
The strike action has received plenty of attention from the press, even though it is missing the typical atmosphere created by speeches, music, food and the coming together in a spirit of shared purpose.
Trade unions and employers have been in negotiations about a new collective agreement for the metal and electronics sector since September 2020. So far, employers have offered a 2.25% pay rise over two years. This amounts to an increase of 1.1%, which is so little that it would actually reduce purchasing power. The trade unions now demand a wage increase that reflects the enormous commitment of the workers in this sector and demand:
- 60 EUR pay rise, plus 1.0%
- Better work-life balance
- Heavy occupation regulation
- Equal pay for flex-workers
- Young workers to be paid based on experience
Isabelle Barthès, Deputy General Secretary of industriAll Europe comments:
“We stand in solidarity with our Dutch colleagues who are rightfully protesting against an unacceptable offer from the employers of the metal and electronics sector in the current collective bargaining round. This corona-proof strike shows how trade unions have risen to the challenge of the pandemic and how it has sparked creativity in mobilising to defend workers’ interests. It is a source of inspiration for other trade unions.”