By Laura Hornberger and Denise van der Bij
Ambulance workers throughout the entire Netherlands started a protest today because of low salaries and the high work pressure they are experiencing. Amsterdam is not taking part yet. “The city is in favour of the agreement now, but if we do not come to an agreement within two weeks, Amsterdam will definitely be part of the protest as well,” says FNV spokeswoman Danielle van Essen.
The strike is not actually a strike, since paramedics are still working. The core of the protest is about collective labour agreement. That means they will have scheduled breaks and do not need to run overtime shifts.
Spokeswoman Danielle van Essen of the Federation Dutch Trade Union Movement (FNV), which is behind the strike, says “The biggest problem and reason for the strike is that there is not enough staff every day. That is why the work pressure is so high for the people right now.”
Eight of the 25 ambulance regions in the Netherlands took part in the protest that started at eight o’clock this morning. But in Amsterdam there is, until now, no sign of an ongoing protest. “The ambulance workers are protesting against the collective labour agre
ement they made in June. Amsterdam was one of the cities that was actually really positive about this agreement. That is probably the reason why they are not joining the strike that is especially going on in the southern part of the country,” says Frank Berg, director of Ambulance Amsterdam.
Peter, an ambulance worker in Amsterdam, does not agree with Berg on this point. “There are actually a lot of parts of the agreement which I am not in favour of. In my opinion, a protest like this is not the best way to deal with these disagreements. I think it is better just to figure things out with the direction.” Peter thinks that it is not possible to work under the agreement conditions (having scheduled breaks and to not work overtime shifts). “What if someone calls 112 and we do not answer? We cannot do that, otherwise we put the life of the patients at risk. It is our duty to save these people,” he says. Employees can decide whether they want to join the protest or not.
Danielle van Essen of FNV says “next week three or four more areas will join the protest, which will continue two more weeks. If the employer does not want to talk then, the protest will turn into a strike.”
FNV has agreed with Ambulancezorg Nederland in June that employees receive more wages. But most trade union members voted against the agreement. Now the union focusing on hiring more employees rather than raising salaries.
“We would like the Ambulancezorg Nederland to discuss the 19.2 million euro’s, the government invested in ambulance care. The aim of the government was to spend this money on hiring new paramedics. The money is recently used to hire employment agency staff for a short period of time, but we want to use the money for hiring people over a longer term,” she added.