On Monday morning, FGTB Brussels General Secretary Philippe Van Muylder visited the most emblematic of the picket lines currently underway. As early as 6.00 am, more than 200 activists gathered on Place Rouppe before joining different picket lines. “All sectors are facing the same issues. They just take on different forms,” explained Philippe Van Muylder.
“Many things are unfair – the decision to skip wage indexation next year, taxation, job (in)security…(…) The Government keeps saying that there is room for negotiation regarding the extremely serious measures that were decided. Still, unions were given no concrete answers. We hear the word ‘dialogue’ a lot, but there is no real dialogue. There’s a big difference here between words and action.”
He was standing in front of Audi Brussels, a manufacturing plant located in Vorst-Forest. He reminded his audience that this company, which currently employs 2,700 workers, had been severely criticised in the past for not recruiting enough Brussels residents. His main objective is to maintain the plant site and its employees.
Around 8.30 am, he was standing in front of the Finance Tower, where four Ministerial Cabinets have recently settled, including that of Maggie De Block. Philippe Van Muylder pointed out that many cost savings had been realised in the public sector. “One in five workers is being replaced. The resulting 40% reduction in operating costs is having a knock on effect: 300 people queueing in front of public services offices, while the Belgian Special Tax Inspection (STI) is facing budget cuts that may impact its efforts to track down tax evaders and adversely affect its fair tax collection practices (FTCP).”
Around 9.30 am, as he was standing in front of Cora supermarket, in Anderlecht, he emphasised that women were discriminated against in recruitment. “At Cora, about 90% of female employees are part-time workers,” claimed Philippe Van Muylder. “It’s easy to imagine what kind of damage would be caused by a decision to skip wage indexation next year. This government strongly questions the mechanism that ensures that minimum wages are equal to or higher than unemployment benefits. Part-time workers will have their guaranteed income benefit (AGR) reduced by half after two years’ employment.”
Around 10.30, as they were standing in front of AXA Assurances and ING company buildings, in Avenue Marnix, unionists remarked that employment had dropped by 20 % over the past 12 years. They noticed the decline in public sector jobs and also remarked that wage moderation was a widespread practice. In this sector, it is combined with converting gross wages into non-taxable benefits.
The visit ended in the Port of Brussels, in front of the AEG building.
Oscar Schneider (Source: Belga)