Thousands of Belgian workers rally in Brussels to protest planned labor law reforms

September 29, 2016 6:33 pm
Thousands of workers have staged a massive rally in to protest against the government’s planned reforms and labor laws, disrupting public transport and traffic. 
Brussels police spokeswoman Ilse Van de Keere estimated that around 45,000 people had joined the rally in the Belgian capital on Thursday.
However, unions said at least 70,000 workers marched across the city center from north to south to voice their anger at planned labor law changes.
The protesters, dressed in the green or red of respective unions, demanded that the center-right government scrap its plans to extend the working week and abandon a scheduled wage increase. 
“The aim of today is to make… the government stop targeting workers and start targeting tax evasion,” Sophie Van De Velde of the public sector CGSP union said at the rally, accusing the government of harming workers.  
The Thursday protest rally was the fourth since Prime Minister Charles Michel took office in October 2014.
In July, the government said it planned to allow a working week of up to 45 hours for limited periods.  The maximum now is 38 hours.

Trade union members march downtown during a protest over the government’s reforms and cost-cutting measures in Brussels, , September 29, 2016. (Photo by Reuters)

The government is also considering skipping a round of automatic wage hikes. Belgium operates a system whereby wages are automatically increased in line with inflation.
Unions have insisted that the move would weaken workers’ rights.   
March disrupts public transport
The march closed some of the main roads and disrupted traffic across Brussels.
Reports indicate that a number of bus, tram and metro lines in the de facto capital of the European Union were closed.
Police had earlier warned commuters not to come to Brussels by car. Brussels Airport had also instructed passengers to allow extra time for travel to the airport.
However, international train services such as such as the Eurostar to London and the Thalys to Paris and Amsterdam were not affected by the demonstration.
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