- Title: Thousands of Belgian workers take part in anti-austerity march
- Date: 24th November 2016
- Summary: BRUSSELS, BELGIUM (NOVEMBER 24, 2016) (REUTERS) PROTESTERS DRUMMING AT FRONT OF ANTI-AUSTERITY DEMONSTRATION IN DOWNTOWN BRUSSELS PROTESTERS BLOWING WHISTLES PROTESTERS DURING DEMONSTRATION PROTESTERS HOLDING BANNERS READING (Dutch) "HANDS OFF HOLIDAY RIGHTS" AND "NEW SOCIAL AGREEMENTS NOW"
- Embargoed: 9th December 2016 12:17
- Keywords: Belgium Brussels Protest Demonstration Austerity
- Location: BRUSSELS, BELGIUM
- City: BRUSSELS, BELGIUM
- Country: Belgium
- Topics: Society/Social Issues
- Reuters ID: LVA00159T0KEF
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text:Some 17,000 workers in non-business sectors such as healthcare and social welfare took part on Thursday (November 24) in an anti-austerity march across Brussels.
Unions called for job creation in their sector, as well as salary increases and better working conditions, especially for workers approaching retirement age.
The march is the latest in a series of protests that have taken place since a coalition government made up of centre-right and Flemish nationalists took office in Belgium.
Workers dressed in the green, blue or red of their respective unions and marched across the city from the north to the centre.
A national representative for Christian Union ACV, Olivier Remy, called for wage increases.
"We are protesting against the austerity measures of the different Belgian governments. There is some years already austerity for all the social and healthcare services. We want more staff because there is a lot of workload for the workers in hospitals, in elderly care, in childcare, in social services and we want also increasing the wages. It's (been) ten years ago that there was an increasing of the wages of the workers and it's long enough," he said.
A 29-year-old midwife from the French-speaking town of Mons who works in Ath, Maude Desir, said money should not be saved on healthcare.
"You have to know that we are healthcare workers. We have a tough job with working hours involving working at night, during public holidays. We work during weekends. Mrs. (Belgian Social Affairs and Health Minister Maggie) De Block is taking away from us the benefits that we gained through the years. So, we are opposed to this. We are angry. We want her to listen to us. We shouldn't be making savings on healthcare. We're a non-business sector. There should be no trade with the non-business sector. There should be no savings on life," she said.
Another protester, 24-year-old medical care student from Brussels, Amelle Rugtier, agreed with fellow demonstrator Desir.
"We feel disgusted. We had more than enough. Sometimes, there is just two of us to take care of 32 patients at the hospital. You have to divide between two people a workload that involves bringing people to the toilets, doing injections, distributing medication, that's just not possible," she said.
In July, the government said it planned to allow a working week of up to 45 hours for limited periods, a move unions said would weaken workers' rights. The maximum now is 38 hours.
The government is also considering skipping a round of automatic wage hikes for a second time to make Belgium more competitive. The country, along with neighbour Luxembourg, operates a system whereby wages are automatically increased in line with inflation.
Police had warned commuters not to come to Brussels by car. Some tramway lines were also interrupted.
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