Belgian unions strike against austerity
Anne Demelenne, the General Secretary of the Belgian trade union confederation FGTB, explains why the unions in Belgium are striking today (Monday) against the austerity measures which their new government is implementing – just like governments all over Europe.
The three Belgian union confederations have called a general strike on Monday to protest against the Belgian Government’s austerity package. Austerity is not inevitable. There are alternatives. But the Government’s approach left unions without an alternative and made the General Strike itself inevitable.
The Belgian unions believe that instead of austerity, we need a plan for jobs to create quality and sustainable employment; rolling back anti-social pension and welfare benefit reform; ensuring wages keep up with inflation, thus protecting purchasing power; investing in public services since we all need teachers, firefighters, nurses etc; taxing wealth and capital gains instead of labour.
Our action is designed to convince the Belgian Government and employers to take into account the reality of workers’ lives:
- Jan graduated but he will have to wait 3 months to receive JSA and most likely he will be trapped in a series of precarious short-terms contracts, like most of his contemporaries;
- Alice is a nursery teacher and she is exhausted and wishes to retire early, but she will have to contribute for 5 more years before she can retire at 62;
- Luc is 55 years old and was fired. He has sent 100 CV but no employer wants to hire him. However he will have to remain available on the labour market until is 60 years old;
- Ahmed is 53 and has 32 years of contributions. He works in a hospital and suffers from bad back but he can’t reduce his working hours and go into semi-retirement until is 55.
On Monday, as European leaders gather to discuss the new treaty on fiscal discipline, the Belgian unions will tell European institutions that we are for a Social Europe and against austerity.