Party leader proposes sanctions against unemployed who refuse jobs in labour-strapped professions

Party leader proposes sanctions against unemployed who refuse jobs in labour-strapped professions
Credit: Belga

The Reformist Movement (MR) on Saturday proposed that unemployed persons who refuse jobs or training in labour-strapped professions should be sanctioned, an idea that has stirred up fresh tensions between MR and its partner in the ruling coalition, the Socialist Party (PS).

Speaking in an interview with Le Soir newspaper, MR leader Georges-Louis Bouchez noted that there were 125 professions in need of workers in Wallonia, while over 200,000 people were jobless. The idea would be to press these unemployed persons to accept such jobs, agree to take training, or face sanctions if they refused.

“Long-term unemployed (over two years) who refuse two training offers and/or two job offers in a labour-starved profession should be directly eligible for sanctions,” Bouchez said, suggesting measures such as cutting off unemployment benefits or social integration allowances. Those concerned should agree to jobs in professions that need workers, whatever their original field of training, he stressed.

“When you have 125 labour-strapped professions, there is a way to find something – mason, hospitality industry staff, electrician, locksmith…,” he said. “Is it better to become a long-term unemployed person than to be trained in a job that is perhaps not one’s original or dream job?”

“Yes, in some cases, one is going to have to force oneself a bit,” the liberal party leader admitted. “The State can no longer help you if you don’t help it.”

His socialist vis-à-vis was quick to react to the proposal. “For the MR President, the solution to the shortages is forced labour and sanctions,” Paul Magnette said on Twitter.

“These liberal recipes do not work and stigmatise people. The PS will never accept them. To fight the shortages, you need to improve the quality of jobs and salaries."

Reacting on the same social media, Bouchez charged that “the socialist recipes are the culture of unemployment and social failure that we face in Charleroi or Mons.” He added: “How does one dare to give lessons when, for over 60 years, one heads cities that keep sinking economically?”

The MR leader may also have aroused the ire of trade unionists with another proposal he made on Saturday: when a business is being structured or reorganized, and discussions between management and unions fail, management should be able to organise a referendum to obtain employees’ opinion or approval on the changes it proposes.

The Brussels Times

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