30,000 converge on central Brussels for jobs demo

1st February 2010, Comments 0 comments

Some 30,000 Belgians converged on central Brussels in freezing rain Friday to demonstrate against rising job losses, responding overwhelmingly to a union call for protests.

BRUSSELS - The trade unions want to put pressure on Belgian Prime Minister Yves Leterme and EU officials to help stem the flow, a week after the announcement that an Opel auto plant in Antwerp is to close with the loss of 2,600 jobs.

Brewing giant AB InBev is also seeking to lay off 10 percent of its staff in Europe.

The rallying point for the organisers, who put the turnout above 30,000, was the Schuman roundabout in the heart of Brussels' European district, home of the European Union commission and council buildings.

Despite the inclement weather, "at least 30,000," including a thousand Opel workers, showed up according to FGTB union spokeswoman Audrey Lhoest.

Another union official put the turnout at 35,000 while a police count estimated that there were 26,800 people involved.

The streets were thronged with protesters sporting the red, green and blue of their respective socialist, Christian and liberal trade unions.

In front of the main EU Commission building, the protesters denounced "the indecency and arrogance" of groups such as AB InBev for seeking to lay off workers while registering healthy profits, or Opel parent General Motors which they accused of playing workers in one EU nation off against those elsewhere.

The demonstration also called for a tax on financial transactions to fund a European relaunch fund.


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