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'Unions have less clout if a call to strike receives little support'

Recently more than five hundred workers at metal companies in Dutch cities Zwolle and Kampen went on strike. Their aim is better pay and the workers have now been on strike for twelve weeks. Just how effective is striking in collective bargaining?

Stefan Sagel

‘A strike is the ultimate weapon unions have’, says Professor of Labour Law Stefan Sagel in Dutch newspaper AD. 'There is a German saying: without the right to strike, collective bargaining is merely collective begging. There’s some truth to that. Striking is a clear way to get your point across.'

Sagel, however, believes there are also other ways to get a point across, such as warnings or factory sit-ins. 'Still, striking is often the path chosen. And that’s a risk, because if your call to strike receives little support, the union can end up looking like a fool. If you make a big announcement calling a strike and then hardly anyone turns up, your position is weak.'

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