Unions demonstrate in Brussels at proposed cuts

Summary

About 5,000 members of trade unions marched through Brussels yesterday to protest at budget cuts being discussed by federal government negotiators

“Just the beginning”

An estimated 5,000 demonstrators from large trade unions marched through the centre of Brussels yesterday in protest at proposed cuts discussed by the coalition parties during recent negotiations to form a federal government.

The new federal government will most likely consist of a coalition of four parties committed to sweeping cuts in the federal budget. The trades unions fear that the parties – Flemish parties N-VA, Open VLD, CD&V and the French-speaking MR – are committed to implementing cuts that will hurt workers and people on social benefits.

More strikes are likely to follow, the unions warn. This is “just the beginning”, said Rudy De Leeuw, chairman of the socialist trade union ABVV. “This is going to be the most conservative government since the Second World War. Everything is going to be financed at the expense of the workers, while the rich and companies will be spared.

“We already know about cuts that will cost 50,000 jobs. In addition, the decision to cut index-linked pay increases will cost workers about €20,000 over the course of their working lives.”

The unions are calling on the new government to guarantee purchasing power, invest in jobs and develop a fairer taxation system. The unions also criticised measures adopted by the new government of Flanders, which they say are also unfair to workers.

Photo: Belga/Eric Lalmand

About 5,000 members of trade unions marched through Brussels yesterday to protest at budget cuts being discussed by federal government negotiators.

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Trade unions

The three main trade unions in Flanders are the liberal ACLVB, the socialist ABVV and the Christian ACV. As social partners, the unions represent employees in wage and labour negotiations at different levels. Belgium has one of the highest trade union affiliation rates in the world.
Representative - Whether a company has a union representatives depends on the size of the company and the sector in which it operates. Every four years, private sector workers and employees elect union representatives in the Works Council and Occupational Health and Safety Committee.
Unemployed - Unions are also responsible for the unemployed, taking care of the administration and payment of unemployment benefits.
Social dialogue - The trade unions are financially independent and included in the Belgian overleg (social dialogue) by law.
8

combined staff members of the three main unions

3

Belgian union members in 2008

1 886

ACV is founded