Unions plan further protests against austerity

Belgium's three big unions are planning further protests against the government's austerity drive. There is no talk of more strikes just yet, but these could be called in time.

With a very slender majority the rank and file of the Christian trades union, the ACV, on Tuesday backed a draft agreement reached between Belgium's social partners. The accord introduces changes to the government's austerity package including higher wages and benefits.

147 delegates voted in favour of the accord, 135 cast their ballot against.

The socialist ABVV union last week rejected the accord, but today met to consider further protest action against government austerity. The socialist union will not be taking unilateral action. Herwig Jorissen: "Our shop stewards do not want to take action alone. We need to develop a plan together with the ACV."

The liberal union is backing the agreement with the employers too, but all three unions are unhappy the automatic linkage between wages and benefits and prices will not be maintained when prices rise a further 2%.

The government has welcomed the ACV's acceptance of the accord. Prime Minister Charles Michel speaks of a step towards social peace.