Healthcare workers at 119 healthcare locations across the country were on strike this Wednesday. Many people who do not need emergency treatment are sent home for 24 hours. An additional disadvantage is that these treatments have to be made up again later, but the strikers take it for granted. What do they want to achieve?

Stakes in healthcare: it happens a lot less than in other branches. That has to do with the loyalty of the profession, says a spokesperson for FNV Zorg & Welzijn to "Strike is not in the DNA of healthcare workers: they care about their patients. If they strike, there is really something going on."

The fact that it is now striking is the result of a high-rise collective labor agreement conflict with the Dutch Association of Hospitals (NVZ). In September, the union's proposal was rejected by the unions: they did not want to submit it to their supporters. Since then, 25 campaigns have been organized locally.

The NVZ called the rejection "incomprehensible". Among other things, a wage increase of 4 percent in 2020 and 2021 and a higher irregularity surcharge (2.5 percent extra) were not enough for the unions.

"We are not asking for mega salaries." Spokesperson FNV Zorg & Welzijn

Requirements: higher wages and less work stress

There are clear problems in the sector. Research by EY recently showed that staff turnover has risen from 14.2 to 15.7 percent. And the absenteeism increased from 5.7 to a record level of 5.9 percent. All because of the high workload.

Because the care staff and the association cannot work together, FNV Zorg & Welzijn, FBZ, NU'91 and CNV Zorg & Welzijn called for a national campaign on 20 November last October. With effect: according to the unions, registrations from hospitals have been pouring in since 16 October.

First of all, the trade unions are asking for a structural increase in collective labor agreement wages of 5 percent, starting in 2019. Efforts are also being made for an extra wage supplement in the case of last-minute calls. "We are not asking for mega salaries," said the FNV spokesperson. According to the unions, the proposals of the NVZ were presented as a final offer.

"We don't know why they do this." NVZ spokesperson

The unions also want something to be done about work stress. For example, "good agreements about working hours and rest periods" must be made. According to the unions, the inflow and retention of employees must also be improved.

Incidentally, all requirements are interdependent, says FNV Zorg & Welzijn. Due to the relatively low wages, it would be difficult to recruit new employees. A considerable proportion of the staff that nevertheless enter the organization quickly leave the company due to the high work pressure. And that work pressure increases only because of the staff shortage.

See also: 'One in five caregivers under 35 has burnout complaints'

"There is an information war going on"

The NVZ recognizes the problems in the health care sector, but also stands firm with regard to its "good proposal" for the collective agreement. "We don't know why they do this," said a spokesperson for the association about Wednesday's actions. According to him, the collective agreement proposal that was on the table was not a final offer, but a first proposal.

The unions would also greatly exaggerate the number of care institutions participating in the campaigns. "There is an information war going on," said the NVZ spokesperson. According to the association, it is not about 119 but 41 hospitals. Many promotions would also be smaller than is anticipated. The NVZ cannot, however, submit a correct list of activating care institutions. has looked at the FNV list with 83 hospitals, 32 outpatient clinics and 4 rehabilitation centers (119 locations in total) to check where the claim from the hospital association comes from. If all the locations of a hospital group are counted as one hospital, with the deduction of outpatient clinics, the total appears to be 41.