Unions issued warning onroad blocks during strike
25 October 2005, BRUSSELS — In the lead-up to Friday's national strike, Interior Minister Patrick Dewael has again stressed that blockades of public roads as part of industrial action campaigns will not be tolerated.
25 October 2005
BRUSSELS — In the lead-up to Friday's national strike, Interior Minister Patrick Dewael has again stressed that blockades of public roads as part of industrial action campaigns will not be tolerated.
Dewael informed unions of his attitude at a meeting on Tuesday morning and said if blockades are initiated, police will be called in to clear the road.
However, the Liberal VLD minister wants discussions to be waged first on Friday, placing responsibility on mayors and local police chiefs, newspaper 'De Standaard' reported on Tuesday.
If problems develop, mayors and police can visit the scene of demonstrations to inform protestors about the potential dangers of their actions. If that is not enough, police intervention will be "necessary".
Deweal stressed that every worker has a fundamental right to strike and protest, but that does not mean they may blockade roads and street junctions. He referred to specific legislation in Belgian criminal law.
The minister had agreed with provincial governors on Monday that besides negotiations with unions on Tuesday, discussions will also be carried out a provincial level.
Following a protest and mass strike in Charleroi on Monday, unions are planning a national strike in connection with a mass demonstration in Brussels on Friday.
Unions are primarily disgruntled by federal plans to raise the minimum early retirement age, but Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt has refused to back down.
Meanwhile, workers with agriculture machinery manufacturer Case New Holland in Zedelgem returned to work on Tuesday morning. They had downed tools on Monday in protest against the federal government's social security and pension reforms.
The blockade was ended after a Brugge judge awarded management compensation of EUR 1,000 per hour and for each non-striker who was hindered. Unions will contest the ruling.
The secretary of Christian trade union federation ACV, Luc Logghe, said no new protests were planned in the lead-up to Friday. However, he could not guarantee that no lightning strikes would occur.
Case New Holland management said workplace peace needed to return in view of international pressures. It said the company could not permit a drawn-out strike.
[Copyright Expatica News 2005]
Subject: Belgian news