31 October 2014

Stefan Sagel elicits landmark Supreme Court ruling: right to strike expanded

The Dutch right to strike has been expanded. Traditionally trade unions are allowed to organise a strike in companies when they have a conflict with that company. Now unions are also allowed to call employees of clients or suppliers out on strike in order to put pressure on their employer.

This is the result of a ruling by the Supreme Court of the Netherlands on Friday, 31 October, in a conflict between a company based in Amsterdam and two trade unions, FNV Bondgenoten and Het Zwarte Corps (HZC).

According to Stefan Sagel, who defended the unions during the proceedings before the Supreme Court, this ruling means a breakthrough in the Dutch right to strike. ‘The right to strike is based on judgments by the Supreme Court and on the European Social Charter. This ruling is also based on the Social Charter.’

Although the ruling involves a specific conflict in the Port of Amsterdam, it will have a broader impact, according to Sagel. ‘Take for instance a strike at a chain of supermarkets, in which the unions are also striking against Coca-Cola and Mars, to force them to put the supermarkets under pressure. If this action at the suppliers reasonably contributes to the target, this action in principle is legitimate.’

Stefan Sagel and Kim van Belle