Wallonian workers strike in fuel price protest
8 September 2005
BRUSSELS — Staff of the Caterpillar factory staged a snap strike on Thursday in protest against high fuel costs and the loss of purchasing power.
And in Liège, some 250 workers of steel firm Arcelor blockaded the E25 motorway in both directions. They were also occupying a service station.
The Caterpillar strikers gathered on the N5, which runs along the factory in Gosselies. They were to depart later on Thursday for Charleroi, where the Socialist union FGTB was planning a demonstration.
Caterpillar makes construction and work vehicles and employs 4,000 people, 3,000 of whom are labourers. It is the second largest employer in Wallonia after aerospace construction company Sonaca, newspaper ‘Het Nieuwsblad’ reported.
The demonstration in Charleroi was only announced at a press conference on Thursday. The protest march will start from the FGTB offices on the Boulevard Devreux and head towards the city centre and Boulevard Tirou.
The march will pass the offices of Francophone federal government coalition parties Movement Reform (MR) and the Socialist PS.
The protest comes after the government failed to reach agreement on Wednesday to compensate the public for the higher price of oil.
Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt has lodged a compromise proposal which will be discussed at the Cabinet’s weekly meeting on Friday.
The sticking point remains the opposing views of the PS and MR and Liberal VLD parties whether an energy rebate paid to families should be income-based.
PS is demanding a EUR 150 payment for families who earn less than EUR 2,000 net per month and EUR 75 for families who earn between EUR 2,000 and 3,500.
The Liberals are opposed to families who earn above EUR 3,500 missing out altogether. “You thus exclude all working two-income households. We can’t live with that,” the VLD said.
It was reported on Wednesday that a deal was expected to be reached after PS leader Elio di Rupo threatened to force a government collapse if the cabinet did not accede to PS demands.
However, other government sources have criticised Di Rupo for making such statements at a time when difficult political decisions needed to be made.
[Copyright Expatica News 2005]
Subject: Belgian news