Expat Essentials

28 May: Massive strike to shut down trains across the Netherlands (updated)

We were in the middle of a meeting Friday when we got this text from NS, the Netherlands’ national train service(emphasis ours):

Because of an industrial action, very limited to no train traffic possible  IN ENTIRE COUNTRY on Tuesday, May 28th …. Advice: do not travel by train on May 28th. On May 29th, train traffic might still be affected by the aftermath of this industrial action.

So basically, all of us expats (and everyone else) who work in one city and commute to their jobs in a second get two extra holidays. (Forget about driving if everyone jumps in their cars in this tiny, crowded country.)

Also, Schiphol Airport officials are asking travelers to avoid flying on the 28th and 29th.

Last year, it was a series of strikes by the bus drivers’ unions for better wages and working conditions that shut down the country. We got caught up in that, and it was painful. We were literally driving all over the south of the Netherlands, retrieving stranded kids and giving rides to total strangers. But what could you do?

This time, it’s members of the train drivers union in Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague who are striking to freeze state employee retirement at 66 years old and to make sure they have cost-of-living increases, with other unions expected to join in solidarity, with even ferry boat pilots and tram drivers joining the strike.

Several Dispatches readers sent us links to media reports that state the bus drivers’ union is walking out, as well.

Also, a judge ruled on Sunday the union must allow four trains per hour to run between Schiphol Airport outside Amsterdam and Amsterdam Centraal train station. But, the direct trains to Schiphol from Eindhoven and other cities won’t run.

Schiphol officials have issued warnings that Schiphol, in a statement warning of disruptions due to traffic congestion, limited train access and no buses and asking people to cancel their travel if possible.

From the airport website:

You are more than welcome at Schiphol, but if you do not necessarily have to be at the airport on 28 May, then we are very grateful if you postpone your visit.

The 24-hour strikes are scheduled to begin at 05:00 on 28 May.

The Netherlands Trade Union Confederation (FNV) is the union for transportation workers. The FNV represents 1.1 million members, the largest trade union in the country. With other unions in other sectors joining in, this looks like a complete shutdown except for the trains to Schiphol.

Pensions and retirement ages are big issues in a rapidly aging country that’s running out of workers …. and where the government plans to increase the retirement age to 67 years and three months by 2024 from 65 years old now to cope with ballooning pension obligations.

We’ve been aware a train strike was brewing since early this month, but we had hoped it would be resolved.

Strikes are meant to shift public opinion, but we don’t know ….

As we’ve said before, for us personally, driving everywhere has no appeal because A) gas is expensive and B) parking is a pain. Every 1.70-plus euro liter of gas we buy and every 2.50-euro per hour parking garage is money off our bottom line.

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Co-CEO of Dispatches Europe. A former military reporter, I'm a serial expat who has lived in France, Turkey, Germany and the Netherlands.

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