For just over two weeks now the bins have been overflowing onto the usually rather spotless streets of Amsterdam and Utrecht. The city council had failed to reach any sort of agreement with refuse collectors and both central city bins and household rubbish has piled up in the streets.
Strike action began on the back of demands for job security and a minuscule salary raise which amounts to about 20 cents an hour extra. Local government has hoped that the state of the streets and any associated public opinion would force the refuse collectors back to work. The unions and strikers have been present in the train and bus stations and have answered the public’s questions and concerns about why the strike action has been taking place. Many travellers have expressed support and solidarity.
The city refuse collectors have seen themselves parted into two groups with one group striking and another — consisting of mostly workers hired from work agencies, but also some full-timers — not joining the strike and waiting to go back to work. A striker interviewed for RTV-U local radio expressed dismay that the non-striking full timers would benefit from the action whilst at the same time they were offering no support and actively endangering it.
Local businesses have been regularly appearing on news bulletins to complain about the mountains of rubbish they produce not being taken away, with one wheeling out the complaint that
“it’s a shame that a historic city like Utrecht has to suffer by looking so untidy”
Businesses have attempted to overcome the problem by hiring containers and removing the piles of rubbish themselves, a move that has largely been unsuccessful as tons of plastic and paper and general refuse produced by businesses and consumers continues to line the streets.
A major Cub Scouts event taking place in Utrecht this afternoon saw many travellers from around the Netherlands arriving into the Central Station this morning with surprised expressions. One traveller with the scouts remarked that the city looked more like “the Streets of Lagos”.
As of today the report from both the FNV and the city council representatives is that an agreement has been reached, including both job security and a pay rise from next year, which will effectively put an end to the strike, although no-one is sure when the collecters and street sweepers will be back to work to remove the accumulated rubbish.
Just last month saw a similar successful strike action amongst cleaners active inside Utrecht’s central station which revolved around another tiny pay demand which both the city council and private hire firms had refused.
(foto: JMV, ossp media)