The FEB (Federation of Belgian Industry) carried out a survey amongst its members on Monday which revealed that only a small proportion of private sector workers took part in the strike, which, it adds, hit mostly the public sector (transport, docking staff, public administration). In SMEs, “only about 5-10% downed tools,” according to the UCM (employers’ organisation for French-speaking independent businesses and SMEs), although it does not have the precise figures yet. “It is mostly large corporations and large plants specialising in production or services which were affected, usually places where a few strikers are enough to block off access and stop production,” adds the FEB.”As far as we know, no vandalism was reported.”
The federation regrets “major damage” to the economy because of a “minority” of people, and estimates the total cost of recent strikes at several hundred million euros.
The FEB points to some macroeconomic factors “encouraging a gradual economic recovery”, such as oil prices and current exchange rates. “I am asking unions to stop undermining these fragile economic conditions with strikes. At the end of the day, they can only make Belgian workers’ job prospects worse. Employers and workers should work together towards a common proposition to the government regarding the welfare plan (1 billion euros for 2015-2016), so that the most deprived benefit recipients and also workers on low income can know what to expect. The FEB is open to a joint action,” ends Peter Timmermans, who heads the FEB.
Although the UCM has yet to work out exact estimations, it believes that “independent workers ignored the call to strike, as did most people working in a SME, at least where they were able to.”
In Flanders and Brussels, Voka (Flemish-speaking employers’ network), according to a survey of 1,400 businesses, 77% of companies saw a full turn out to work. 7 out of 10 companies were not affected. 20% reported problems accessing their industrial zones. Picket lines were present in 4% of companies.