Unions demonstrate against federal government's austerity programme
Today is the big union demo against the new federal government's austerity programme.
Tens of thousands of supporters of the Christian, socialist and liberal unions are expected in Brussels for a demonstration that will leave from the Brussels North Station at noon and via the Willebroekkaai and the central boulevards, Emile Jacqmainlaan, Anspachlaan and Lemonnierlaan will make its way to the South Station.
Considerable disruption is anticipated.
Belgium's state-owned rail company is marketing a special half-fare ticket to allow people to get to the demo cheaply. By last night 60,000 tickets had been sold.
The protest is aimed at the federal government's austerity programme, but Flemish government cuts too have mobilised many. The federal government is introducing a two-year wage freeze.
As a one-off measure wages and benefits won't be topped up when prices rise by 2 percent as is usually the case in Belgium.
The unions say that the unemployed will lose out, while those in work will have to work longer before they retire and won't be able to take as much time out. Public services will have to get by with fewer staff.
"This is a social bloodbath" said the Christian union's supremo Marc Leemans. "The burden is being placed one-sidedly on the back of ordinary families and big earners and wealthy people are not contributing at all."
The Flemish Government is under attack for lower child allowance, more expensive child care and education, pricier public transport and higher energy bills.
The unions say that the Flemish Government is skinning Joe Fleming.
Dozens of youngsters spent the night camping out in the centre of Brussels to protest against government action.
The demo is expected to paralyse parts of the public transport system. Both the Brussels and Flemish transport companies will be affected as workers join the protest. The police have asked people not to drive into Brussels today.
The disruption goes beyond the capital. In Ghent and Antwerp child care is affected and refuse collection is hit too. Fewer staff turned up at Volvo Cars Gent, the port of Zeebrugge and Hasselt jail.
Flandersnews.be / Expatica