A new AT5 report warns that serious staff shortages within Amsterdam’s public transport operator, the GVB, are resulting in high workloads for employees. If new staff can’t be hired, the broadcaster writes that some “lines are in danger of disappearing”.

Amsterdam public transport threatened by staff shortages

While a recent survey conducted by Time Out ranked Amsterdam as one of the best cities in the world for public transport, services in the Dutch capital have been struggling since the coronavirus pandemic. In the spring of this year, a document seen by Het Parool revealed the GVB’s plans for a major overhaul of the city’s public transport system in 2023 and 2024

Now, an in-depth report by Amsterdam news broadcaster AT5 states that the GVB is suffering from “a serious shortage of personnel” – the company currently has around 400 job vacancies, 300 of them are for metro, bus and tram drivers – while those working at the company report being “weighed down by unfeasible driving times, gruelling schedules and malfunctioning equipment.” 

Considering the GVB’s urgent need for staff, it’s likely unsurprising that “the current timetable cannot continue without new workers in the buses, metros, trams and ferries”, AT5 notes. Indeed, the GVB has already had to refuse a request from the municipality to operate more ferries across the IJ during rush hour, as the company simply doesn’t have the personnel to do so. 

High workloads and absenteeism among GVB staff 

While the municipality and Amsterdam Transport Region have committed significant funds in order to ensure that the city’s public transport services don’t suffer and that public transport remains accessible as Amsterdam moves to a more car-free society, the reality is that the GVB doesn’t just need more money in order to operate; it also needs more workers

“Our number one concern is the personnel problem,” GVB director Claudia Zuiderwijk told AT5 in an interview. In addition to staff shortages, a recent internal survey found that 60 percent of GVB drivers felt the workload was (much) too high – a key reason for this is the unfeasible punctuality targets set by the GVB itself.

The workload, in turn, leads to high levels of absenteeism among staff. “There is a lot of absenteeism, which increases the workload, which causes even more absenteeism, which increases the workload. This only exacerbates the problem,” Eric Vermeulen from the Netherlands Trade Union Confederation (FNV) explained to AT5.

Workers are also contending with “outdated” and “malfunctioning” equipment and systems, which lead to even higher pressure and further delays to services. “Sometimes you first have to start up four different buses before you have one that works a bit,” one member of staff wrote in a recent employee satisfaction survey.

GVB committed to improving employee workloads

In response to AT5’s report, the GVB emphasised that most of its staff was generally satisfied with the working conditions, and that it was “not our impression” that the high workload had any impact on the company’s ongoing staff shortages. 

The operator also pointed out that other public transport companies were facing similar staffing issues, and added that the pandemic continued to play a role in the high percentage of staff that were calling in sick. Finally, the GVB told AT5 that it was aiming to ensure a fairer workload for staff.

Thumb: Marc Bruxelle via Shutterstock.com.

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