Trades unions say “Enough is enough”

Members of Belgium’s three trades unions are staging a demonstration in Brussels today in protest at the Federal Government’s economic and labour policies. The day of action entitled “Enough is enough” is the third such demonstration since the centre-right Federal Government led by Charles Michel (Francophone liberal) took office in October 2014.

The unions argue that the government always takes for the money it needs to keep budget under control from “ordinary working people” and leave those with “big fortunes” untouched.

The demonstration has come about as a result of measure the government took in the mini-budget. The abolition of the 38 hour week is one measure that has met with much criticism.

The leader of Christian trades union Marc Leemans told journalists that "The efforts that more well-off people have been asked to do in return have gone up in smoke. The Cayman Tax has become lizard tax, something that is small and runs away quickly. The diamond tax glistens by its absence, and the speculoos (a play on words between the biscuit speculoos and speculation) has dissolved in the coffee. Enough is enough”.

What are the unions demonstrating against?

The unions are protest against measures the government has already taken and measures the government still hopes to implement.

The abolition of the 38 hour week. In future the number of hours worked will be calculated annually rather than weekly. This means that workers will be required to work more hours when it’s busy and fewer hours when it is quiet.

• The unions say the tax shift has left big fortunes untouched.
• The one off non-index-linking of salaries. That has meant that salary increases have been delayed
• Modifications to the system of time credit and career breaks.
• The reintroduction of trial periods.
• Cuts to public services.

What next?

Next week on 31 May public sector unions will stage a national demonstration. On 24 June the socialist trades union will hold a national strike. The liberal and Christian trade unions won’t be taking part.

The unions have also announced days of action in the autumn. There will be another big demonstration on 29 September and a national strike on 7 October, the second anniversary of the installation of the centre-right government.