Negotiations between NS and labor unions end without result; Friday train strike definite
Talks between Dutch national railway NS and its labor unions drew to a close on Thursday without the two sides concluding a new collective bargaining agreement. This means that the strikes announced by FNV, CNV and VVMC will definitely continue. The unions and the transportation company will meet again on Saturday, said CNV director Jerry Piqué.
The NS employees will hold a wide regional strike in the west and northwest of the country on Friday, a region which includes Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague, Leiden, Dordrecht, Almere, and Schiphol Airport. Because most trains criss-cross through the Netherlands, the NS decided to cancel nearly all train traffic throughout the Netherlands as a precaution. A strike affecting the north, south, and east of the Netherlands is planned for Tuesday, with another in the central region next Thursday.
After a set of one-day regional strikes last month, the NS wrote a letter to the unions with a new collective labor agreement offer. The unions then decided to resume talks with the public transport company, although they indicated that the NS had to take extra steps to reach an agreement.
"Today, questions were asked about that letter and the necessary comments were made. That took a lot of time," says Piqué about Thursday's talks. The unions have demanded an automatic wage increase in line with inflation and fair hikes in the future.
The differences between the proposal of the NS and the demands of the union "are still quite great,” said FNV director Henri Janssen on Thursday. "Tomorrow's strike will unfortunately continue. But we have made an agreement to continue the exploratory talks on Saturday and Sunday, so there is hope that the strikes of Tuesday and Thursday can be prevented," he said.
In a response, the NS is especially happy that talks about a collective labor agreement have been resumed, but regrets the work stoppage. The last offer from the NS included a wage increase of 7.5 percent in two steps. The company's management also said it wants to address concerns about inflation among its staff. The unions said that NS is refusing to concede on automatic wage increases. They also want more commitments to tackle work pressure, absenteeism, and a high number of vacancies at the NS.
Only a few limited routes will remain operational despite the work stoppage. This includes a NS train running several times per hour in each direction between Schiphol, Amsterdam Zuid, and Utrecht Centraal, and the R-net between Alphen aan den Rijn and Gouda, which is operated by NS. Nearly all international trains, including those operated by Thalys, Eurostar, and NS, will not travel in the Netherlands on Friday.
Most Deutsche Bahn trains between the Netherlands and Germany have either been scrapped or will not cross the border, except for a handful of trains between Frankfurt and Amsterdam. Many Nightjet overnight trains were also heavily modified on Thursday. The Maastricht-Luik regional routes and the Roosendaal-Antwerp train should remain operational.
Reporting by ANP