I haven’t written about strikes for some time – not because they are not relevant but because (at least in Finland) they are to a large extent reactive. By this I mean that in recent years they have been more often protests against co-decision procedures regarding lay-offs and redundancies that actions to pressure the employers to concede certain points. Statistics Finland has a short overview, in Finnish and Swedish only, from which one almost could infer that the Finnish labour movement is severely on the defence. I will write about that at some other point.
In general though, the level of strikes has gone down a lot since the 1980s. Nonetheless, the Finnish employers’ federation EK still posits that there are too many strikes, and that most of them are illegal. As a concrete goal, EK would like to see a tightening of the right to strike, in particular regarding support and sympathy strikes. I find this goal interesting for a whole lot of reasons.
In the Netherlands the right to strike is now expanded – which is a development in the opposite direction. To shortly give an overview:
As there exists no statutory right to strike in the Netherlands, the rules governing industrial
action have been developed by case law.
In 1986 the Supreme Court ruled that Article 6(4) of the 1961 Council of Europe Social Charter (the right to engage in collective bargaining and to take collective action) is directly applicable, thereby recognizing a right to strike for workers (excluding public servants). The Charter makes no distinction here between official and unofficial strikes, while also recognizing the right of employers to take collective action in the event of an industrial dispute.
Until the decision of the Supreme Court of last week, there was no explicit right for support or sympathy strikes. But this recent decision has in fact now introduced this right to Dutch law. As the Dutch text states, it was kind of allowed to have a so-called third-party strike, but lower courts did not agree. The big change is now that the Supreme Court confirms this right.
As a besides: according to one of the interviewees, the Dutch interpretation of the Social Charter was internationally seen as very tight. I am quite interested in how EK would argue it’s case now that also the Netherlands has moved away from a very tight interpretation.