Trade unions and social, cultural, and political associations have taken to the streets on Labour Day to draw attention to the weakest members of society being affected by the pandemic.
Whilst fears are mounting over “La Boum 2” wreaking havoc on one end of the city, crowds gathered on the Place De Brouckère with a clear message: the pandemic and the measures taken by the government to combat it have mainly affected the weakest members of society.
“One year after the start of the pandemic, poverty has risen due to massive temporary unemployment”, the demonstrators, who argued large parts of the working class, young people, undocumented migrants, and women were most impacted, said.
The crowd demanded a higher minimum wage, pointing at the suggested wage increase on top of the index which is expected to be limited to 0.4% for 2021-2022, a collective reduction in working hours without loss of pay, and a minimum net pension of €1,500, among other things.
“Large parts of the working class and of the youth have no income, undocumented people are without means of subsistence. But while one economic sector is going under, others are doing better than ever, such as the pharmaceutical and logistics sectors and department stores,” they said.
Demonstrators also argued that too many employers in non-essential sectors, where these groups are mostly employed, were not respecting the safety measures.
In the first wave, people worked without masks and with a lack of disinfectants, but even today, in all too many sectors and companies, the patronage system still refuses to respect the safety measures for staff. Educators and students have never been given adequate resources for safe direct education, nor for the transition to distance learning,” the group argued.
Protesters added that the production and distribution of vaccines is another example of capitalist disorder, and that capitalism, in general, it is causing serious damage to people’s health.
“Competition between pharmaceutical groups, in the research and patenting of products and processes, substandard industrial production, totally unbalanced distribution on a global scale at the expense of the countries of the South. The whole sector continues to be characterised by profit, even though there are millions of deaths,” they said.
According to the demonstrators, patents on vaccines must be lifted: “They were largely developed with public money. In addition, everything must be done to ensure mass production and distribution on a global scale, including social control of the sector.”