May Day – “Government needs social heart not face”
Friday, 01 May 2015
The government’s policy is “unfair, shocking, cynical and unacceptable.” This is the message sent by Inga Verhaert (sp.a), Caroline Copers (ABVV), and Paul Callewaert, secretary general of the Flemish socialist mutual insurance funds, on the occasion of the May Day celebrations in Antwerp. “Last year – a few weeks before the election, editor’s note – we warned people against some of the parties’ right-wing programmes. We pointed to threats to the early retirement system, wage adjustment, and to the hounding of the unemployed,” said Caroline Copers, secretary general of ABVV, the Flemish arm of the FGTB (a union). She lambasted the N-VA in particular, for attacking unions mercilessly, as she sees it. According to her, conservative right-wing policies seem to aim solely at making people poorer and make the rich richer.
For her part, Inga Verhaert, regional president of sp.a, criticised “cruel and shocking” measures from federal and Flemish governments. “We do not need leather chairs or wi-fi in public transport, we need more buses and tramways,” she said, citing the example of the Flemish company De Lijn.
She also rejected the idea that socialists are responsible for everything that is going wrong. “We live in one of the richest countries in the world, is that also the fault of the socialists?” she retorted.
Paul Caulewaert, secretary general of Flemish socialist mutual insurance funds, deplored financial cuts in the field of healthcare and health insurance. According to him, the way the right-wing majority undermines middle classes is unfair and deceitful. “They took our money, but they forgot about our health,” he said, in essence. “This government does not need a social face, but a social heart.”
In Ostend, the candidate for the sp.a presidency, John Crombez, also criticised the right-wing government, which he calls the “VIP government”. According to him, a small elite of super-rich people has emerged and been given power, and wants to protect its privileges and extend them, whilst avoiding policies which might benefit everyone, rich or poor, educated or not, native or not.
He acknowledges however that the government is right on one topic: non-wage labour costs must come down. “Non-wage labour costs must be dramatically reduced. There needs to be a big cut: 10%. And this needs to happen in a way that means net income actually goes up.”