Belgians battling for their pensions

Submitted by vickim on 4 November, 2005 - 10:42

On Friday 28 October the Belgian trade unions staged a second 24-hour national strike opposing government plans to increase the retirement age from 58 to 60.

Unlike on 7 October, when only the ABVV/FGTB federation, with links to the Socialist Party, went on strike, all the trade union federations participated.

A hundred thousand joined a march in the capital Brussels, many of them brought there by trains which ran throughout the strike just for the purpose of transporting protestors.

The marchers wore green, red and blue, the colours of the three main union federations. Their banners read “Touche pas à ma prépension” — “Hands off my early retirement”. Protestors wondered why older workers are being asked to work longer, when there is a problem of youth unemployment in Belgium.

In spite of the display of resistance to his proposals, the Liberal Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt, who leads the Liberal-Socialist coalition government, is refusing to talk further with the unions.

The media in the days beforehand tried to whip up anxiety about the strike, suggesting that there would be trouble in Brussels during the march. The unions have responded with an open letter insisting on their legal right to strike.

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