Expatica news

PM holds firm on reforms as strike looms

27 October 2005

BRUSSELS — Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt has warned unions that strike action will not change the federal government’s ‘generation pact’.

“The pact will remain intact, such as we announced it in Parliament,” the Liberal VLD leader said after Wednesday’s Cabinet meeting.

The statement was a definite signal from the Liberal and Socialist coalition government that it will not back down in the face of the national strike the nation’s three trade union federations will stage on Friday.

The day of protest is intended to force the government to amend its social security and pension reforms, such as the move to lift the minimum early retirement age to 60.

Besides the strike action, the Christian ACV, Socialist ABVV and the Liberal ACLVB unions hope 70,000 protestors will demonstrate in Brussels on Friday.

Buses and trams will not operate, but trains will continue running as per normal — primarily to transport protestors into the capital in a show of union solidarity.

It remains uncertain how flights will be affected at Zaventem, Brussels’ international airport, newspaper ‘De Standaard’ reported.

The impact of the strike and demonstration on Belgian economic activity is also difficult to predict. In many smaller businesses where union strength is weak or non-existent, work will continue as normal.

Due to the fact unions will be protesting in Brussels, there will be fewer strikers’ posts, such as what occurred on the ABVV-led national strike on 7 October when business sites were blockaded.

The union show of strength has not impressed Verhofstadt, who said discussions will only be held on various procedural decisions while warning that the generation pact itself will not change.

“This reform is absolutely necessary for the financing of the social security system. We are going through with it because it must,”he said.

[Copyright Expatica News 2005]

Subject: Belgian news