UNI backs workers in the Netherlands fighting for living wages at luxury department store


UNI backs workers in the Netherlands fighting for living wages at luxury department store

UNI Global Union is calling on de Bijenkorf in the Netherlands to negotiate a pay rise with its affiliate FNV as workers at the high-end department store chain struggle to make ends meet during the cost-of-living crisis.

The retail workers, who are members FNV, want a 10 per cent raise in the short term and an agreement that would guarantee regular inflation-indexed pay increases. However, de Bijenkorf has refused to listen to workers’ demands, leading to the first strikes at the company since the 1970s.

In the past few months, hundreds of de Bijenkorf workers have taken industrial action at stores in Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Amstelveen and Utrecht; and took to the streets in in Maastricht and Eindhoven. More strikes are planned in the coming weeks.

“We stand united with de Bijenkorf workers and FNV in their dedicated fight for a collective agreement and a living wage that workers need and deserve,” said Mathias Bolton, Head of UNI Commerce. “We call on de Bijenkorf management to negotiate with FNV and conclude an agreement that would cover fair demands of the workers.”

Even though de Bijenkorf is a highly profitable company that offers a “luxury shopping experience”, many experienced workers are leaving the company due to the low wages (around 12-13 Euros gross/per hour), excessive workload and uncertain working hours, putting even more pressure on remaining staff.

Many de Bijenkorf customers have shown solidarity with the workers on Instagram, while workers are using TikTok to mobilize support among workers and the public – which led de Bijenkorf to offer a gift voucher of 50 Euros to everyone in the company.

Meanwhile, the workers’ actions have inspired other retail workers to strike for a pay rise, including employees at Etos, which sells drugs and cosmetics.

Founded in 1870 in Amsterdam, de Bijenkorf employs around 2,400 workers in the Netherlands at seven stores and a distribution centre, including 500 workers at the head office. The company, which sells a range of luxury products including clothes, footwear, accessories, furniture and cosmetics, also sells online in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, France and Austria.