Belgium: unions call national demos and general strikes

Bring down the government!

LSP/PSL (CWI, Belgium) reporters

Belgian trade unions have called new protests – including national demonstrations and a 24-hour general strike – after the right-wing government announced abolition of the 38-hour working week and attacks on public sector pensions, among other austerity measures.

A campaign of union protests will culminate in a general strike on 7 October, the second anniversary of the Thatcherite government.


The propaganda of the government and its parrots in the corporate media accuse trade unions of being ‘irresponsible’ and ‘representing nobody’. Yet opinion polls indicate that 75% among the Dutch speaking and 81% among the French speaking populations think that the trade unions are important to defend social reforms.

In the past decade the trade unions have won 200,000 new members bringing total membership to 3.5 million. This growth and bigger involvement is partly a result of the plan of action at the end of 2014 (when a national demo was followed by three regional strikes building up to a general strike on 15 December 2014). The active rank and file of unions has also grown.

At the same time the government has been weakened. It was unable to present itself as a government of ‘national unity’ following the terrorist attacks of 22 March.

The government not only attacks our living standards but also each other! The widespread discontent played a role in the resignation of two ministers – Jaqueline Galant from the federal government and Annemie Turtelboom from the Flemish government.

Christian-democrat minister Kris Peeters tried to present himself as the ‘social face’ in the right-wing government, but totally blew this cover when he said ‘we all live above our means.’ He is seen as the architect of abolishing the 38-hour working week. On a recent demonstration against this law by the ACV/CSC Christian trade union federation, Peeters was a central theme.

He says that there can be no negotiations if there are strikes. But there are no real negotiations, it is a one direction offensive by the bosses.

Bosses’ like Karel Van Eetvelt from Unizo have compared the strikes with terrorist attacks. This is a scandal. Protest against the undermining of our living standards is a democratic right.

We cannot accept that our actions only lead to empty promises of negotiations followed by new attacks. This is what happened after the unions’ plan of action in 2014.

If we let this government complete its term, we will only get more and harsher austerity measures. Our aim has to be the downfall of this government.

A movement to bring down the government and its austerity policies will inevitably lead to a discussion on a political alternative.

We think there is a huge potential for a political force from the workers’ movement. There needs to be a broad initiative to regroup all those who oppose austerity policies: trade union activists, socialists, left activists and organisations, including the electorally growing PTB/PVDA.

The aim has to be a fundamental break with the neoliberal austerity policies and the building of a socialist alternative.