Statistics Netherlands announced today that there were 25 strike actions in the Netherlands last year; 10 thousand employees were involved and altogether 41 thousand working days were lost. The number of labour disputes last year was just above the average annual level of 21 over the twenty-first century so far. The number of employees participating in strikes was relatively low in 2014. An average of 33 thousand employees have annually downed tools since 2000.
Sector cleaning services accounts for more than half of strike days
The number of strike days varies considerably from one year to the next. Over the period 1999–2014, it varied between 245 thousand in 2002 and 5 thousand in 2009. With 41 thousand, the number of strike days was also relatively low last year. Actions were planned in several large companies, e.g. Dutch Railways (NS) and the cleaning sector. In June 2014, a collectively negotiated three-year agreement was reached for 150,000 cleaning service workers in the Netherlands. The actions lasted almost 10 weeks and 23 thousand working days were lost.
Working days lost and labour disputes
Strikes often related to collective wage negotiations
Nine of the 25 strikes were related to collective bargaining issues, such as wage demands, but also to secondary working conditions, like pension schemes, overtime payment or sick pay schemes. Eleven actions were held to avoid compulsory redundancies as a result of closures or reorganisations.
Not all strike actions supported by trade unions
Most strike actions were supported by the trade unions, but three strikes lacked trade union approval. In these cases, the trade unions were not involved from the very beginning. Twelve strikes lasted longer than five days. During these strikes most working days were lost, i.e. nearly 33 thousand. Six strikes lasted less than one day and as a result 200 working days were lost.
Industrial unrest relatively rare in the Netherlands
Compared to many other European countries, conflicts between employers and employees are relatively rare in the Netherlands. In an international perspective, the number of strike days is low. On average, 9 working days were lost per one thousand employees in the period 2009–2013. In Belgium, for example, 66 working days were lost annually per one thousand employees, i.e. more than seven times the average for the Netherlands. The willingness to strike among German employees is about the same as in the Netherlands.