The labour in unions in Belgium went on a 24 hour strike against the government austerity policies that are aimed at making 14 Billion worth of cuts to the social services. The pro-austerity Charles Michel government is planning on increasing the pension age, cutting pension, laying-off public sector workers, and scrapping the inflation linked pay rise that was planned to take effect next year.
The unions shut down all mass transit including national and regional trains and international traffic such as the Eurostar service to London. Main highways were also blocked and access to the city of Ghent was also closed. Europe’s principal port of Antwerp was also closed by union workers.
The current right-wing government is planning to balance the books on the backs of the workers. Instead of taxing the rich corporations that generate exorbitant profits, the government is following the austerity agenda taking place in the rest of Europe that will result in the increasing gap between the rich and the poor.
The welfare state and the social services within it, was the result of the post WWII bourgeois crisis initiative to control the demand in the market. With European standard wages and social services available to working class it provided the bourgeois the demand for its commodities in the market via the disposable income of the workers. This allowed workers comparably a better standard of living, at least until the neo-liberalism era. Today, after four decades of neo-liberal assault on wages and benefits of workers, the European bourgeois, after the 2008 crisis has no other option but to cut whatever that is left in the bank of social services and feed it to the compounding profit needs of the market.
The union workers in Belgium are facing the same bourgeois agenda as the rest of Europe and are now in a defensive fight to keep whatever that is left of their welfare state. This struggle, class struggle, is taking place at a time when capitalism’s internal contradictions has manifested in such a way that it can only move forward by bulldozing through the workers’ wages, benefits and social services. It is no longer a matter of small reforms, give and takes, but a colossal change that will leave nothing in its wake. The only question here is that will the unions can muster enough strength to hold back the bourgeois assault long enough for a worker’s party to organize a fight back?