October 5, 2017 / 2:50 PM / 4 months ago

Classrooms deserted - 90,000 Dutch elementary school teachers strike

THE HAGUE (Reuters) - Elementary schools across the Netherlands were shut on Thursday as some 90,000 teachers went on strike to demand more pay and a lighter workload.

Last-minute promises by politicians to boost spending failed to avert the largest work stoppage by Dutch primary school teachers since the 1980s.

The strike comes as Prime Minister Mark Rutte seeks to close over 200 days of coalition talks, with teachers promised close to 800 million euros in extra spending.

But primary school teachers are demanding a 1.4-billion euro (£1.25 billion) spending injection to match salaries to those of secondary school teachers.

The strike reflects growing frustration among workers in one of Europe’s strongest economies, who feel left behind as accelerating growth has not been matched by wage increases.

Dutch primary school teachers attend a general strike, demanding higher wages, in the Hague, Netherlands October 5, 2017. REUTERS/Cris Toala Olivares

Despite decade-high economic growth of 3.3 percent and early signs of labour shortages, overall wage growth will remain limited to 1.6 percent, national forecaster CPB said in August.

Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem, Central Bank governor Klaas Knot and IMF chief Christine Lagarde have urged companies to raise pay, but to little effect.

Slideshow (3 Images)

“60,000 people coming from far and away shows that these demands are just”, outgoing Minister of Social Affairs Lodewijk Asscher told Reuters at a rally. “Teachers are always modest about their pay, but they simply deserve more.”

Strike organiser Jan van der Ven said: “We still have a long way to go. We will get the 1.4 billion (euros) we want and we won’t stop until we do.”

Unions have vowed to strike for two more days in November if their demands are not met.

“Higher pay would be good, of course, but more assistance in the classroom is perhaps even more important”, said 25-year-old teacher Kiki Kamp from the town of Rijen. “This strike is worth the cause and we will go on if necessary.”

Editing by Anthony Deutsch and Robin Pomeroy

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