The trade unions speak of an unexpected success. Even the police say 100,000 people took part. The railways sold 80,000 half-fare tickets for the demo today.
The demo got underway earlier than planned because so many people had converged on the boulevards around the Brussels North Station.
The Christian union’s Marc Leemans: “This is the biggest demo in a quarter of a century. A lot of people came here at their own initiative. They think it’s necessary.”
The socialist union’s Rudy De Leeuw: “I haven’t experienced this in the 30 years I’ve been with the union. It is a very strong signal.”
“The government’s policies are unbalanced and anti-social. Efforts are being asked of one side, while people with money are keeping safe in Luxembourg.”
Demonstrators include former Premier Elio Di Rupo (Francophone socialist), who broke an unwritten rule that former premiers no longer get involved in day-to-day politics.
Towards the end of the demo violence erupted.
Police deployed water cannons saying that a small group of protesters got violent.
The Mayor of Brussels Yvan Mayeur speaks of some 200 workers from the port of Antwerp.
21 people were hurt and had to be taken to hospital.
The demonstration led to significant disruption to public transport as many workers walked out to take part.
The Flemish employers’ organisation Voka says the impact of the protest on the private sector was limited: 1.6 million workers stayed at work. Most of the protesters come from the public sector.
The small businesses federation Unizo said only 3 percent of the country’s SMEs were affected.
Following the demo cabinet ministers will meet with a trade union delegation at the Prime Minister’s office. The government invited the unions to continue the dialogue and they accepted.
The entire Inner Cabinet will be present.
Interior Minister Jan Jambon (Flemish nationalist) said the Coalition Accord was a framework and that talks were possible.
Still the government is determined to cut wage costs – and that means a cut in spending power – and create and retain jobs.
Flandersnews.be / Expatica