Union leader calls Belgium out on general strike
28 September 2005
BRUSSELS – Unionists have called for a general strike in Belgium despite winning a commitment for talks from Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt.
Trade unions are unhappy about proposed reforms to pensions and social security and on Monday warned they could call members out to the pickets any time between 28 September and 11 October.
On Tuesday afternoon, Guy Verhofstadt met representatives of the unions to hear their concerns that his reform package, which also includes measures for workers at the end of their careers, is imprecise and incomplete.
He pledged a series of negotiations, starting from 29 September, which he said should finish in agreement by 8 October.
The move split the trade union movement. On Wednesday, the socialist group FGTB/ABVV announced it would hold a general strike on 7 October, in order to keep up the pressure on the government.
Jean-Claude Vandermeeren, secretary general of Wallonia’s FGTB, said: “We must keep up the pressure… be present at the negotiations but with a forceful relationship to make the government aware that we aren’t prepared to accept any old deal”.
After a meeting with FGTB, the Liberal CSC union announced it wouldn’t be striking before exploring the avenue of the talks.
Both the francophone Federation of Belgian Companies FEB and its Flemish counterpart Unizo condemned the strike threat and threatened to withdraw from the negotiations.
The last time strike action loomed on such a large scale was in 1993 when workers revolted against the global reforms proposed by the Dehaene administration.
[Copyright Expatica News 2005]
Subject: Belgian news