Train workers preparing more strikes as unions claim NS is not negotiating
The labor unions representing thousands of workers at NS said they are prepared to continue to organize strikes until they have a new contract with the Dutch national railway. The three unions, FNV Spoor, VVMC, and CNV, organized five one-day strikes in August meant to affect a different region on each day. The strike on Tuesday in the central region of the country forced the NS to cancel nearly all trains it operates.
Previously, FNV said that NS has to present a new contract that the unions are satisfied with by 31 August, or workers will go on strike nationally. Union workers claim their wages have not kept pace with inflation for years, while the pressure they face on the job has only increased. They want a one-time payment of 600 euros per worker, automatic wage increases in line with inflation, and an adjustment to early retirement schemes. They also claim they have to work many weekends and nights, even as they approach retirement age, while their break durations are reduced. This is because of hundreds of vacant jobs at the NS, the unions said.
Stalled negotiations over a new collective bargaining agreement led to the strikes over the past two weeks. The unions said they have seen media reports where the NS accepted that the the ball is in their court. "We are pleased that the employer has now reached this conclusion, because it the deafening silence from that side had remained. However, so far we have not yet received an invitation from NS for talks," the unions said in a statement on Thursday.
More labor actions are being prepared because of the lack of communication between the two sides. "NS has not yet contacted the trade unions, so we will continue to organize the next strikes together with our demonstration leaders," the unions said. "They will only stop campaigning as soon as there is a good collective labor agreement."
"We understand the concerns and messages from our colleagues," said Bert Groenewegen, the acting CEO of NS, earlier this week during the one-day actions. "You don't just go on strike. That is why we would like to talk to the trade unions in order to come to a good collective labor agreement.”
The unions also pointed out that many new hires at the NS end up quitting within a few years. On top of that, they criticized the railway of stripping the "human dimension from the heart of the company" as vacancies remain unfilled. "Trains are cancelled daily because of a shortage of personnel. Travellers who need service wait for hours at the counters, and far too often, people with disabilities do not receive the assistance they need to travel by public transport."