Four days of municipal workers’ strike have left the city covered in trash. Last Tuesday the municipal workers went back to work, though there have been no advancements in the negotiations with the municipality. Along with other cities across the country, they call for higher salaries and a better collective bargaining agreement as a result of the country’s economic challenges.
More to come
A total of 25 municipalities in the country have and are participating in the strikes. Garbage collectors, city cleaners, supervisors and BOAS (special investigating officers) are calling for an increase in wages given the rising inflation and energy prices.
The strike is related to nationwide negotiations regarding improvements in their labor agreements which are spearheaded by the national employers organization Association of Netherlands municipalities (VNG) and the trade union FNV.
“We have been trying to raise the wages since September and for a long time they offered nothing,” says Shirley Harms, Groningen’s representative at FNV. Workers and their trade unions are demanding a 12% salary increase and price compensations in order to make up for the high inflation hitting the country.
“There are more strikes to come,” states Harms.
Whilst Groningen’s strike is over, other cities continue. A nationwide strike was called yesterday, and Rotterdam continues with its 6-day halt.
A whole different city
Four days was more than enough to illustrate the essential role city cleaners have. “It looked like a whole different city,” says Jolien, a Dutch student, who after five years of living in Groningen had “never seen the city this dirty.”
As garbage bags overflowed next to the trash cans, so did the worries of some businesses, whose location next to the rubbish piles made them less attractive to clients. “Having lunch next to so much trash is disgusting,” remarks Jolien.
Although the municipality officially requested its citizens to refrain from leaving trash in the streets and storing it indoors instead; this has not made much of a difference. The effects of the strike have been made clearly visible: cities require constant cleaning and do not clean themselves.
This was it
Less visible have been the effects of the negotiations. Overall, talks between the municipalities and trade unions seem to be in a deadlock with no agreements or advancements announced by any of the parties.
Groningen welcomed back garbage trucks and sweepers this past Valentine’s day, although the feelings were not mutual. “Very disappointed,” says Joost, a Groningen municipal worker, “we’re cleaning more and nothing has changed.”
Nevertheless, no one rules out the possibility of further strikes.
“This was it,” says a spokesperson from the municipality.
“For now… Maybe.”