Around 100 people, including a dozen or so from Liège, took part in a protest rally in front of the Belgian National Employment Office (Onem) on Tuesday at 10:00am. The protest was organised by the ‘Stop art.63§2’ group. Between 20 and 30 people entered the building at around 9:45am and proceeded to disrupt the interviews taking place on the second floor. Police evacuated all visitors and activists, numbering forty to fifty people, at around 10:30am, said Brussels-Midi police spokeswoman, Marie Verbeke. No arrests were made. The service was closed until 1:00pm.
One of the activists blocking the Onem explained the reasons for the protest: “We want to disrupt this exclusion machine and slow it down. On January 1st next year, tens of thousands of unemployed people will be struck off the list of unemployed. This De Rupo government measure means status checks will be more thorough and sanctions more direct. As a result, people who fail these checks will lose their unemployed status in January and hence their access to the welfare system.”
The ‘Stop art.63§2’ group is comprised of no fewer than 86 associations. On Monday, six of them filed a request for a moratorium with the Employment Minister, Kris Peeters. According to Thierry Muller, Stop art.63§2 network representative, “Job hunters are being literally harassed about their job search activity and it needs to stop. There are roughly 20,000 jobs available per month for a million job seekers. Yet in a couple of weeks’ time, people will be struck off the list because they haven’t worked enough hours. Full employment is not possible in the current situation so measures should reflect that instead of forcing people into any type of work in any conditions. These measures will simply make working conditions less and less acceptable and, according to estimates by unions, will only save the state 150-200 million euros.”