News from Amsterdam

To the front page

11/1 Jurists want to stay in Oudemanhuispoort

8/2 Mayor’s portrait

8/2 Websites for social cohesion

7/2 Spreading tourism proceeds with difficulty

7/2 GroenLinks on districts: Be a man

6/2 Zuideramstel opens new office on Sabbath

5/2 The truth about integration

4/2 Wilders has little support on Amsterdam

3/2 Elite involved in neighbourhood

2/2 Johnnie Walker avoids taxes in Amsterdam

1/2 Rotterdam to tinker with district councils as well

31/1 Wooden rowing boats to disappear from Amstel

31/1 ZeeburgTV launched

27/1 Privacy activists to mess up loyalty card system

27/1 A few were still coughing, but that was an act

27/1 Chrisis in de Baarsjes

26/1 Youth have positive view of districts

24/1 Action groups call for Carmel and Jaffa boycott

24/1 PvdA members dismiss plan for districts

23/1 KLM takes on crisis with new uniform

23/1 District office not squatted

21/1 Merge districts

20/1 Closing squat bar Vrankrijk not necessary

20/1 Cleaners welcome new Schiphol director

18/1 Palestine at the Jewish Historical Museum

18/1 What is the right size for a district?

17/1 PvdA Oost against fewer districts

16/1 Committee: 7 districts by 2010

15/1 Soldiers may attend Afghanistan debate after all

15/1 Bait bike leads to arrest

14/1 Youth for Christ to republish vacancies

13/1 Paintings of the Zuidas

13/1 New Youth for Christ contoversy

11/1 Social cohesion initiative raises eyebrows

10/1 Fewer districts in 2010

10/1 Zuidas: People feel that we are losers

9/1 Fun on the ice - but not for all

9/1 Supermarket coupon fraud thwarted

9/1 I Amsterdam must remain exclusive

8/1 Use term Apartheid in every discussion

8/1 No city kiosk in Amsterdam yet

7/1 Snow

7/1 Fatima Elatik to run Zeeburg

7/1 Municipal managers to return to shop floor

4/1 Police: take photo of strange people

3/1 Gaza protest criticises politicians

1/1 Thousands to protest against attacks on Gaza

1/1 Mustapha Laboui leaves district council


2008 Archive

2007 Archive

2006 Archive

2005 Archive





Campaigning for a social Zuidas

9 July 2006 – Amsterdammers want the government to impose social conditions on companies that use public money. Proponents of such conditions need not passively wait what happens, a successful civic initiative in London shows. Might a similar approach work at the Amsterdam Zuidas?

In 2012, London will host the Olympic Games. “Often with such large projects, people complain afterwards that the local community has not benefited”, explained Andrew Crossley of the London Citizens organisation. “In this case, we wanted to get involved at an early stage, in order to make sure that the local community does benefit”.

London Citizens is a coalition of trade unions, schools, churches, mosques, and other community organisations. By mobilising Londoners for campaigns and election meetings, the coalition got Mayor Ken Livingstone to sign an Olympic Charter.

In this Charter, he promises to promote the use of local labour; ensure that workers are paid a living wage; train local residents for these jobs, especially in construction; build at least 4,500 affordable houses; and improve local services. London Citizens will have access to the contracting process to make sure that these conditions are upheld.

London thus decided to attach social conditions to the money the government invests in a large project. Among Amsterdammers, there is broad support for such social conditions, an opinion poll commissioned by News from Amsterdam showed.

After the summer, alderman Ahmed Aboutaleb will present a plan to make agreements about work placements when work is contracted out by the municipality. However, there is at present no intention to apply such conditions to the largest project that the municipality invests in, the Zuidas.

On the contrary, pressurised by Minister Sybilla Dekker, the municipality is considering loosening the social norms for this project. The Minister thinks that it is a waste to have low-income people live at such an expensive location, and therefore refuses to pay for social housing. The municipality is now considering lowering the share of social housing for a part of the Zuidas.

“Nonsense”, comments Rutger Groot Wassink, who is policy advisor with the Netherlands Confederation of Trade Unions (FNV) and district council member in Westerpark for the GroenLinks party. “We must not create islands. Especially a prestigious project such as the Zuidas would benefit from social housing. I am sure that this would be very healthy for the other people who will be living there as well”.

“I also think that the municipality should impose social conditions on the companies that carry out the work, for example regarding work placements”, Groot Wassink says. He does expect that there may be resistance: “Civil servants may be reluctant; they do not always like doing things in a different way”.

Nevertheless, it should be possible to implement such a policy. “Especially in a city such as Amsterdam, with a progressive government. I am definitely in favour of GroenLinks advocating such an approach in the city council. And I am also in favour of coalitions of social organisations putting some pressure on the government”.

A reason why some social pressure may be required, is the structure of the Zuidas project. The municipality, the national government and financial institutions are to create the Zuidas NV, which will be responsible for the project. ABNAMRO Bank, Bank Nederlandse Gemeenten, Fortis Bank, ING Real Estate en Rabobank Netherlands are candidates to participate.

This type of public-private partnerships runs the risk of evading democratic control. As a result, the interests of the businesses involved may gain the upper hand, at the expense of the public interest, writes Professor Erik Swyngedouw of Oxford University in his contribution to the book Amsterdam Zuidas European Space.

“Amsterdam’s future, and the planning and implementation of its new Southern expansion, is too important to be left to a small crowd of political and economic elites”, Swyngedouw writes.

A practical problem is that it is difficult to mobilise people at projects such as the Zuidas, says Bastiaan van Perlo of the Amsterdam Tenants’ Association (HA). “It is different with projects where a lot of existing houses are demolished. With such projects, there is always far more debate and protest”. At the large new housing projects, there are no local residents’ associations. “You might say that these projects are something of a blind spot. Perhaps we should deal with this at the city level”.

A profession that might benefit from social conditions at the Zuidas project are the cleaners. In America and the United Kingdom, trade unions sometimes use the local government as a tool to put pressure on employers and their clients to pay decent wages to the cleaners in prestigious office buildings.

“I think that we should adopt that approach in the Netherlands as well”, says Eddy Stam, who is responsible for organising cleaners at the FNV Bondgenoten trade union. He has a close collaboration with the American service employees’ union SEIU, famous for its successful Justice for Janitors campaign.

Following the American example, Stam is investigating ways to pressurise employers indirectly. An example are the picket lines at companies that are clients of the cleaning giant ISS, such as the Shell office in Rijswijk. However, the municipality is not yet in sight as a possible means to pressurise employers.

Stam does keep a close watch on developments at the Zuidas. “I have been there once already, at the headquarters of the ING bank and at one of the large law firms, Houthoff Buruma. In the near future, we are going to systematically organise cleaners at the office buildings along that part of the Ring Road”.

The London example is based on the article Community Unionism in a Global City. Results of the opinion poll. More on the Zuidas


Want to receive News from Amsterdam? Click here

This is the old website. Please find new content here