Short breaks after long trips anger train conductors

Yesterday in the early morning hours train conductors and drivers had a "staff meeting" to "send a signal" about their complaints about the too short breaks they get between trains. The meeting lasted from 04:00 to 07:00, causing many trains to depart late, or not at all.

Between 150 and 200 drivers and conductors attended the meeting. "We are really tired", said on of the drivers, who wishes to remain anonymous. "There is a feeling that we are being kept on a line. There have been many promises to find solutions, without anything really changing."

The workers' biggest complaint is that with the increasing workload, the breaks are becoming even shorter. There is often little or no time to grab something to eat or visit the bathroom between two long trips. "In the last 2 or 3 years the services have become 45 percent more intense", said Wim Eilert of union VVMC, which did not declare the "strike", but supported it. "So the breaks between two rides are sometimes considerably shorter."

Long-distance journeys of between 3 to 5 hours have become more the rule than the exception, just like working days of more than 9 hours. In between drivers and conductors have breaks of sometimes no more than 11 minutes, in which they have to get something to eat, get a coffee, visit the bathroom and get to the next train. Drivers and conductors also complain about the dirty trains they have to work on.

NS was made aware of yesterday morning's "work stoppage" a week ago, but failed to prevent delays. "They just claimed lack of personnel", says Eilert. Three NS directors were present at the meeting yesterday. They promised to have "answers" by Friday. Eilert does not expect any new actions until then. But if the problem of the short breaks are not resolved, "it can happen more often afterwards", says Eilert.

A majority of the drivers expect that NS won't come up with appropriate solutions by Friday.