Date: Fri, 31 Oct 97 08:50:59 CST
From: Michael Eisenscher <>
Subject: Dutch dockers take action for Amsterdam jobs

Dutch dockers take action for Amsterdam jobs

By Halinka Augustin, 26 October 1997

Second report on the situation of the Labourpools in the Rotterdam and Amsterdam ports

To: Merseyside Shop Stewards and Women of the Waterfront

Dear brothers and Sisters,

Monday (13 Oct.) negotiations in Amsterdam failed, so the ultimatum was passed. That evening there was a union meeting in Amsterdam to organise the strike. But the demand to organise a joint meeting of Amsterdam and Rotterdam was not enforced. Tuesday there was a general 24-hour strike in the Amsterdam port. The next days they held surprise-actions. Spectacular was the occupation for 6 hours of the locks in the Noordzeekanaal near IJmuiden on Friday (17 Oct.), trapping one container vessel and preventing several ships from entering the port.

Wednesday (15 Oct.) the Rotterdam Action Committee announced they would call for solidarity actions with Amsterdam on Friday, thereby deliberately disobeying the court-order. Solidarity is stronger than the law! A second objective was to force the union burocracy to send invitations for the promised joint-meeting, which the leadership wanted to avoid at all cost. Nation-wide coverage of this announcement was brought by TV, radio and press. Thursday evening the demand for a joint-meeting was met: invitations were sent. The management of the Rotterdam labourpool (SHB) also brought out a (so-called new) plan, without redundancies and with other false promises. Friday strike went ahead as planned, although the SHB had only sent to work the very small number of 60 workers.

Monday-morning (20 Oct.) Jeroen Toussaint, chairman of the SHB Workscouncil, was sacked on the spot for organising the solidarity-action on Friday the week before.

Tuesday (21 Oct.), at long last, the joint union-meeting of Rotterdam and Amsterdam Labourpool dockers took place. In the evening, about 500 dockers attended the meeting. The meeting-hall almost ‘exploded’'; because of the sacking of the 300 Amsterdam dockers; because of the summarily dismissal of the chairman of the Workscouncil of SHB; because of the casualisation-plans of SHB; and because of the unwillingness of (all but one of) the union-officials to do something about it. Union-officials were no match for the arguments, the discussion and the anger of the dockers. Again, officials agreed to adopt the demands of the dockers. They were also forced to maintain the chairman of the Workscouncil as a member of the union negotiating-panel. A promise was made to hold no ballots, but at every step arrange joint meetings of Amsterdam and Rotterdam Labourpool-dockers, to decide about the next course of action. 2.000 Dutch guilders were collected, to cover the fine for disobeying the court order.

Wednesday-morning (22 Oct.) dockers of the Labourpool blocked the gate of ECT, the large container terminal. Workers of ECT itself did not cross the picket, but joined the stop-work action, which lasted for three hours. SHB-management was told to re-hire the Workscouncil-chairman, or else expect new actions. ECT-management announced that this time they will claim damages from the people involved in the action. ECT-management will also go to court to get a court- order banning all future blockades.

Wednesday afternoon, official negotiations were resumed in Rotterdam, this time with a joint Amsterdam+Rotterdam negotiating-panel. Of course, union officials—who wet their pants in front of union-members, but are at ease close to the management, tried to undo the results of the meeting the night before. They did not succeed. Further negotiations will take place on Thursday 30 Oct.

Monday October 27th the sacking of SHB-Workscouncil chairman will be judged in a court of law. But as an Amsterdam docker said: ‘Your colleagues are the best lawyers!’

Dockers will not be intimidated, but will go forward for: steady jobs, decent wages and a future for the dockworkers and their families! in solidarity,

Halinka Augustin


Monday October 27th, two coaches with Amsterdam Labourpool-dockers arrived at the court-building. Joining their Rotterdam colleagues, a total of about 300 dockers wanted acces to the court-hearing. Only 50 people were let in. The angry dockers occupied for a short period the nearby Erasmus-bridge. A tram/streetcar backing off derailed itself, thereby practically blocking the bridge. The driver did not seem very worried, but expressed solidarity. After the court-hearing, the dockers crossed the bridge in a demonstration to the city-hall. Under massive police-supervision, they demanded a representative of the city-council to come out. A member of 'Havenvrouwengroep' (Dockers' Women Group) and Ron Wiechels of the Amsterdam Labourpool delivered the demands of the dockers. The city-council promised they would get in touch with the council of Amsterdam, to talk about the fusion of the two Labourpools. An easy promise, but the dockers know they are the only ones who can save their jobs and their future.

On their way back, the Amsterdam colleagues ‘visited’ the parliament-building in The Hague. Forcing entrance, they talked with a sympathetic MP and delivered their demands. Actions will continue this week. In Rotterdam, the judge will pas a verdict on November 3rd. Dockers expressed outrage at this delay: for it took the court only 30 minutes on October 8th to reach a decision, forbidding 15 Workscouncil-members to call for (solidarity) actions.