From the TUC

Austerity is not the answer, say Belgian unions

03 Dec 2011, by Guest in International

On Friday, Belgian trade unions staged a national demonstration in Brussels against austerity. FGTB General Secretary Anne Demelenne explains [translated from original in French] why they were protesting.

On 2 December all three Belgian national trade union centres – the FGTB, the CSC and the CGSLB – organised a national demonstration. Why? Because the draft budget bill for 2012 has just been finalised by the negotiators of the future government (Belgium hasn’t had one for over a year now) and it contains austerity measures we cannot support.

These austerity measures concern early retirement, unemployment benefits, healthcare and public services as well as working conditions for the young. Benefits for the long-term unemployed will be cut, people will have to contribute for longer before they can retire, young people will have to work longer before their employment is protected and so on.

Neither workers nor benefit recepients have been consulted. The bill for the crisis should not be presented for payment to the weakest in society, and less so to future generations. Obviously we are aware that consolidating public finances is necessary. But not at the expense of workers and benefit claimants.

Austerity is not inevitable. The FGTB has an alternative and it was to make our voice heard that workers and benefit claimants were in Brussels on 2 December. Trade unions propose alternative sources of revenue to balance the budget from those earning the highest incomes and making capital gain. We need a deep overhaul of fiscal policy including among other things combating tax evasion, a reform of tax on revenue from capital and an abolition of corporate tax cuts.

Austerity is not the solution, it will only make things worse. On the contrary, we have to invest to spur sustainable growth and we must find the resources from those responsible for the crisis: bankers and financiers. Moreover, a plan to stimulate growth is urgently needed to create quality and sustainable jobs.

GUEST POST: Anne Demelenne is General Secretary of the General Federation of Belgian Labour (FGTB/ABVV), one of Belgium’s national trade union confederations.