Dutch cleaners campaigned for six months for higher wages and went on strike for another nine weeks. It was the longest strike since 1933 and they won, ‘bread and roses’.
By Willem Dekker, organizer of the cleaners’ union
The cleaning sector was fully privatized at the end of the nineties. Since then competition has been driving wages down and work pressure up. In the summer of 2009 cleaners, of whom most come from a migrant background, launched a campaign for higher wages, better working conditions and more respect from management. In times of austerity and a government drive for a wage freeze for public workers, this campaign raised the stakes of industrial conflict. If the cleaners could get a raise – why couldn’t other workers? The campaign turned into a model for multicultural resistance against the cut-backs.