Belgian general strike

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Belgian workers take action against cuts plans

Monday 30 January 2012

by Our Foreign Desk

Belgian workers struck against austerity today and called on European Union leaders meeting in Brussels to tax financial transactions and pool eurozone debt.

Belgium’s three main unions – the socialist FGBT, the Christian democratic CSC and the liberal CGSLB – called the strike to warn the government not to go ahead with its €12 billion (£10bn) cuts plan.

The cuts include a pension “reform” that forces people to work longer for less.

The strike closed one of the country’s airports and disrupted flights in and out of Brussels.

Trains and public transport systems were paralysed and many schools shut.

Factories and businesses stood idle, while the ports of Ostend, Zeebrugge, Ghent and Antwerp were at a standstill.

The three unions last staged a general strike in 1993.

Trade union leaders converged at the EU summit for a small demonstration, demanding a government plan to kick-start the economy and a better deal for workers.

FGTB general secretary Anne Demelenne said: “Austerity is not the solution, it is the problem.”

She called on EU chiefs to tax financial transactions, regulate financial markets, and co-ordinate corporate taxation.

And union leaders delivered a symbolic “eurobond” as part of their call for eurozone states to pool their debt.

That would help struggling countries such as Greece, Portugal and Ireland but it is opposed by relatively well-off Germany.

Ms Demelenne said issuing eurobonds would rein in money market speculators and help countries “revive an economy that serves the workers.”

CSC leader Marc Leemans agreed: “What we need is growth. Growth creates jobs. And you don’t get growth when you suck the oxygen out of the economy by austerity, austerity, and then some.

“There should be more solidarity between member states. Eurobonds are a good solution.”

Photos of the strike in Antwerp today are here.

Reform of Portugal’s labour laws and the right-wing coalition government’s austerity measures are provoking mass opposition: here.

4 thoughts on “Belgian general strike

  1. Anti-austerity general strike called for March in Portugal

    A general strike is to be held in Portugal on March 22 to protest the government’s attacks on employment conditions.

    The action has been called by Portugal’s largest union, the CGTP. There have been two previous general strikes held since the introduction of government austerity measures related to the bank bailout.

    The cuts are part of a plan to meet the conditions set by the European Union and International Monetary Fund in exchange for a loan of €78 billion ($103 billion).

    The austerity package has also enabled unemployment to hit a new high of 14 percent in the final quarter of last year, and for the Portuguese economy to contract by 1.5 percent in 2011.


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