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Unions divided over call for climate strike

© Belga
© Belga

Trade unions have reacted to a call from Thursday’s climate protesters to join in a massive protest on 15 March by issuing a call to strike, but solidarity is far from evident. Once again, thousands of students and young people marched in the streets of Brussels, as they have done now for seven consecutive Thursdays, to protest at the government’s lack of action on climate change, and to call for more to be done. As we report elsewhere, this time they were joined by Greta Thunberg, the Swedish schoolgirl who inspired the school-strike movement.

The organisers have gradually increased the membership of their movement, and this time they issued a call for a mass strike of workers, to march with the young people on 15 March. But the unions have reacted, on the whole, less than enthusiastically.

The Christian union CSC/ACV has no intention of issuing an official strike call. “We support the demonstration,” said chairman Marc Leemans. “”But we will not be issuing a notice to strike, Anyone who wants to take part will have to make an effort for themselves.”

Without a union’s notice of intention to strike, issued in due time according to the law, workers are not covered for absence, and will have to take sick leave or a day from their annual leave allowance.

Their liberal colleagues of the ACLVB/CGSLB also have no intention of striking officially: “We want to show solidarity, but that will not involve a notice to strike,” a union official said.

The socialist union ABVV/FGTB is divided. The General Centre, one of the largest sections of the union, does intend to strike. “Of course we want to take part in this,” said general secretary Werner Van Heetvelt. “But this will not be a classic 24-hour strike. It’s important for us to do this. These young people are the unionists of the future.”

The section for public sector workers, on the other hand, will not. “This is not a professional strike,” a spokesperson said. “Normally we go on strike in relation to work and working conditions, then we sit round the table and try to come to a solution. I fail to see how the government can come up with a solution to this problem in the short term.”

Alan Hope
The Brussels Times