Tendance Coatesy

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Posts Tagged ‘Trade Unions

France: Serious May Day Clashes as Police Introduce ‘Kettling.’

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 Des policiers en civil aspergent des manifestants durant la manifestation du 1er Mai à Paris.

 Police in Civilian Dress Spray Paris Demonstrators. (le Monde)

France 24.

Police fired tear gas after protesters hurled bottles and other projectiles during a May Day rally in Paris Sunday, where controversial labour reforms were the main focus of demonstrations.

  • Tens of thousands of demonstrators took part in the march in the French capital amid a heightened police presence after several recent protests against labour reforms ended in violence.
  • There were ugly scenes as a small group of protesters in balaclavas hurled projectiles at the security forces, who responded with volleys of tear gas, bringing the march to a standstill.
  • Calm was later restored, however, and the majority of those taking part in the demonstration did so peacefully.
  • Police said between 16,000 and 17,000 people took part in the rally and Paris. The CGT union put the figure at 70,000.
  • Rallies in other French cities including Nantes, Bordeaux and Marseille passed largely without incident earlier Sunday.

Le Monde carries a report in which demonstrators accuse the Police of having acted with the aim of stirring up trouble.

« C’est la première fois que je vois ça », commentait un manifestant d’une cinquantaine d’années, présent dimanche à Paris, alors que les forces de l’ordre avaient pris en sandwich la tête du cortège, constituée majoritairement de jeunes sans étiquette syndicale, la séparant en aval du reste du défilé et la bloquant devant par une ligne de CRS quasi inamovible. Résultat : quarante-cinq minutes à peine après le début de la manifestation, au-dessus de ce peloton de tête « nassé », les premiers gaz lacrymogènes fusaient et rencontraient les premiers pétards et autres feux d’artifice, occasionnant quelques charges sporadiques des policiers. « On appelle ça la politique de la tension », regrettait un manifestant. « La surprésence policière est une provocation », surenchérissait un autre.
 This is the first time I’ve seen that” commented on Sunday  a middle-aged demonstrator at Paris, as the police held the head of the march, largely made up of young people unaffiliated to the trade unions, and separated them at the top, by a solid line of the riot squad (CRS), from the rest of the demonstration.

As a result, a bare 45 minutes after the beginning of the demonstration, above and outside this ‘kettle’, the first tear gas grenades were thrown, and were met with bangers and other fireworks, followed by sparodic police charges. “You could call this the ‘strategy of tension” one marcher said regretfully, “The massive police presence is a provocation” forthrightly added another.

British readers will note that the Police used a tactic we are familiar with: ‘nassé ‘ means literally netted, as in fish,  but in the jargon of marches it signifies “Kettled”.

 

One demonstrator alleged that this was a deliberate “strategy of tension” to rattle up disorder.

 

Which is not to deny the existence of bands of ‘casserus’ – those who smash things up (casser) on the margins of French demonstrations.

A May Day rally held by Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Front party was crashed by a group of topless Femen protesters.

Topless Femen activists on Sunday interrupted the French far-right National Front’s (FN) annual May Day gathering for the second year running, baring their chests and toasting “The end of the FN” before being arrested.

At midday, the Femen militants, topless and clutching bottles of champagne, burst from a red van parked outside the party’s headquarters at Porte de la Villette in northern Paris.

Their torsos were daubed with slogans including “Fascists stay in the shadows” and “Long live the end of the FN”.

Their protest was short lived as riot police controlling the gathering moved quickly to arrest them with the enthusiastic help of FN security guards.

Bystanders shouted “Put them under the wheels of your truck” and “Don’t be gentle with them”.

The official FN gathering this year, dubbed a “patriotic banquet”, took place earlier in the day at Saint Augustin in central Paris, in a break from tradition that usually sees far-right supporters march from another statue of Joan of Arc on Rue de Rivoli, next to the Louvre Museum, to nearby Opéra.

However, bitter infighting that saw FN leader Marine Le Pen oust her father Jean-Marie last year meant there were two different rallies at two different Joans and more airing of the family feud.

Jean-Marie Le Pen, 87, kicked out of the party for refusing to tone down racist and anti-Semitic comments, held court at the traditional spot in front of about 400 supporters where he woefully predicted a loss for the FN in next year’s presidential elections.

Earlier, Femen posted a picture on Twitter of its topless militants mopping the ground outside Opéra, under the slogan: “We are proud to clean our democratic and secular streets of Marine Le Pen’s dirty hatred”.

Written by Andrew Coates

May 2, 2016 at 11:49 am

France: Day of Action against ‘Reform’ of Labour Laws.

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13h05, les étudiants en marche derrière les syndicats, s'engagent sur le boulevard de l'Hôpital.

Libération reports that over 200 marches and protests have taken place in France today against the Valls’ government ‘reforms’ of labour law.

There was a strong presence of school and university students.

There have been violent incidents on the margins of the demonstrations.

France 24 says,

Clashes broke out on the streets of France on Thursday during fresh protests over labour reforms, as workers went on strike in protest against the planned changes to working conditions.

Some French train drivers, teachers and others were on strike, while a separate strike by air traffic controllers threatened travel chaos for thousands of passengers.

The industrial action has not affected Charles de Gaulle airport, although 20 percent of flights at Orly airport have been cancelled.

State railway company SNCF has warned of disruptions to national and regional train traffic. International lines to London and Brussels should not be affected.

The travel chaos resulted in more than 400 kilometres of tailbacks on motorways around the capital.

The Eiffel Tower is closed all day. The company operating the monument said in a statement that there were not enough staff to open the tower with “sufficient security and reception conditions”.

City clashes

Riot police flooded the streets and clashed with protesters in the western cities of Nantes and Rennes, among 200 demonstrations expected across the country.

Police said around 10 people had been arrested in the capital, where demonstrators marched under banners reading, “We want better” and “A giant leap forward to the 19th century.”

The Socialist government is desperate to push through reforms to France’s controversial labour laws, billed as a last-gasp attempt to boost the flailing economy before next year’s presidential election.

But protests by unions and students turned violent last week, and demonstrators vowed an even bigger turnout on Thursday.

They are angry over plans to make it easier for struggling companies to fire workers, even though the reforms have already been diluted once in a bid to placate employers.

Hollande’s government was still reeling from his decision Wednesday to abandon constitutional changes that would have allowed dual nationals convicted of terrorism to be stripped of their French citizenship.

The measure had been derided as ineffective and divisive, including by left-wing rebels within the Socialist party – many of whom also oppose the labour reforms.

Note: the measure has been derided because it will weaken the rights of employees (see earlier detailed post on Tendance Coatesy: France Mass Protests: Unions and Students against ‘reform’ of the Code du travail, the “Loi Myriam El Khomri”. March the 9th) .

Communist Senators protest against the law today in the Senate:

Unemployment still rising

Already the least popular president in France’s modern history, François Hollande is seeing his numbers continue to fall, with another poll on Wednesday showing he would not even make it to a second-round run-off in a presidential election.

Hollande, 61, has vowed not to run again if he cannot cut the country’s stubbornly high unemployment figures – long hovering at around 10 percent – and he hoped the labour reforms would encourage firms to hire more staff.

But pressure from the street and parliament’s back benches caused the government to water down the proposals so that they apply only to large firms.

Some reform-minded unions have given their support to the changes, but last week’s demonstrations saw cars burned in Paris and more than 30 people arrested as protesters clashed with police, who responded with tear gas.

A recent opinion poll found that 58 percent of the French public still opposed the measures.

Labour Minister Myriam El Khomri said this week that she understood why “such a profoundly reformist text has raised questions and requires debate”, adding: “It is not a blank cheque for companies”.

Bosses are also unhappy, particularly over the removal of a cap on compensation paid for unfair dismissal, and the scrapping of plans that would have allowed small- and medium-sized companies to unilaterally introduce flexible working hours.

Parliament is set to vote on the reforms in late April or early May.

Written by Andrew Coates

March 31, 2016 at 4:13 pm

100, 000 Demonstrate Against Austerity in Brussels.

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Our Belgian Comrades on the March. 

The United front of Belgian Trades Unions (Christian union ACV (green colour), the socialist union ABVV (red) and the liberal ACLVB (blue)   has announced that 100,000 marchers took part in a national demonstration against Austerity  in Brussels yesterday (the Police estimate 81,000) (reports from Le Soir and  En Belgique, une immense manifestation contre l’austérité. Le Monde.)

They were joined by two leaders of the francophone Socialist Party (Parti Socialiste), Elio Di Rupo  and Laurette A. J. Onkelinx  (of Kabyle origin).

Members of the civil platform ‘Hart Boven Hard’ also participated in the protest.

The principal slogan of the unions was “Que des miettes pour nous ” – only crumbs for us. It symbolised the inequalities in the country.

Other slogans took up, in a humorous vein, this theme, mocking the – admittedly odd looking, – Federal Prime Minister Charles Michel,

©Sylvain Piraux

Washing Powder Michel Guaranteed to shrink your spending power. 

©Dominique Duchesnes

Mr Potato: He Reduces us to Mash. 

The media spoke of the success of the event, which many expected to draw smaller crowds (Le défi de l’après-manif? Inclure la rue). There were some strikes in public bus services to accompany the protests.

There were a few violent clashes between protesters, some said to be anarchists, and the police.

Des manifestants antiaustérité jettent des pierres en direction de la police mercredi 7 octobre à Bruxelles.

Affrontements entre quelques manifestants et forces de l'ordre lors d'une marche contre les mesures d'austérité du gouvernement de Charles Michel.

Austerity for the trade unions means direct attacks on their membership.

Last year a series of “reforms”, ending indexing of salaries to the cost of living pushed back (meaning effectively wage cuts as they drop behind price rises) , pension age put back to 67 years, reform of early retirement plans and savings in public spending without any taxation of capital.

 

The march  demanded improved purchasing power, a tax shift that includes a fair share of the burden for the rich, and job schemes to get the vulnerable groups in society at work (English language report here).

Little has appeared in the British media on this important protest.

 

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

October 8, 2015 at 12:01 pm

Jeremy Corbyn at Burston Rally Calls for Labour to Open up Policy Making to Members.

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Burston Strike Rally.

From SJ Burston Facebook Page

As many as 3000 people have attended the annual Burston Strike Rally in Norfolk – among them Labour leadership contender Jeremy Corbyn.

The rally is held every year to celebrate the longest strike in history which happened in 1914. Then schoolchildren ‘went on strike’ to support their sacked teachers. The strike lasted 25 years. ITN.

Clive Lewis, elected this year as Labour MP for South Norwich, and one of the original Parliamentary backers of Jeremy Corbyn’s bit for leadership, spoke. He called for not let up in our efforts to get Corbyn elected, and the importance of the campaign to bring Labour in line with the mood for changed politics.

Jeremy addressed the rapt crowd. He talked of the need to build on the labour movement’s achievements, of the debt we owe to those who fought for the NHS, for the Welfare State, for legislation like equal pay, health and safety and the human rights act.

The Labour governments of the 1990s had helped with initiatives like Sure Start and more resources for public services. But their achievements had been built on sand: they had accepted the free-market consensus laid down in the Thatcher years.

Unable to confront directly the Conservatories’ call for more austerity, they had not challenged it. Instead of attacking the financial causes of the crisis, the banks, they had accepted the need for cuts, if reluctantly.

Labour had to break with austerity. It had to oppose welfare ‘reform’, from the sanction system to the assault on disabled people’s benefits. It to start backing trade unions and defnding the right to organise, to belong to a union and to strike.

Corbyn outlined plans for a National Investment bank as a pillar of his programme to rid the public sphere of the dead hand of PFI.

One theme of Corbyn’s speech is worth underlining.

He called for opening up Labour’s policy process to the party membership.

This is a subject he frequently focuses on.

I don’t think we can go on having policy made by the leader, shadow cabinet, or parliamentary Labour party. It’s got to go much wider. Party members need to be more enfranchised. Whoever is elected will have a mandate from a large membership.

Guardian.

Those familiar with the present Labour policy process, culminating in the National Policy Forums, will know that it is hard, if not impossible, to influence the Parliamentary leadership’s decisions.

This is how the way they make policy began (Tribune. January 1995. Andrew Coates – ironically encouraged to write this by Peter Hain).

January 1995

The Tendance, who is well acquainted with people who have participated at every stage of the Forum process (and was himself there when it was set up), can give chapter and verse on how the Leader, his office,  and his communications staff have ignored well-thought out proposals on everything from Planning Legislation to Welfare.

It is ironic that it is the very system of rule by the favoured few which introduced the present open election process for the Labour leader.

The right-wing of the party under Blair – the modernisers – have long had the ambition to make Labour into a version of the US Democratic Party.  But it was not just the ingrained cultural cringe of the British political scene towards the US that was the immediate stimulus.

They were impressed by the following changes on European left (the Italian former Communists’ beat them to the change over to ‘Democrats’).

They gained the ear of the party Leader……

Italy 2007:

On 14 October 2007, voters of the Democratic Party (Partito Democratico) were called to choose the party leader among a list of six, their representatives to the Constituent Assembly and the local leaders. The primary was a success, involving more than 3,500,000 people across Italy, and gave to the winner Walter Veltroni momentum in a difficult period for the government and the centre-left coalition. Wikipedia.

This system continues.

Progress published an admiring article in April 2013, by Shamik Das:

The Partito Democratico was the only party to organise primaries both for its leader and its parliamentary candidates, and was the only party without the leader’s name on the ballot paper.

During the leadership primaries, both the eventual winner, Pier Luigi Bersani, and his principal challenger, Matteo Renzi, utilised the web, with the party gaining a strategic advantage. Between June and December 2012, it was the only political party with an online presence, dominating cyberspace – and it is a presence that continues to grow and deliver.

The PD’s primaries’ database stands at an impressive three million contacts (out of an electorate of about 50 million, with turnout  at 75 per cent), a small army the party re-energised and mobilised in the general election. Detailed analysis of the database was undertaken, from people’s professions to backgrounds, knowing where to go, what to ask of them, and how many voters each can contact in turn. Many of these three million people (in a democracy of a similar scale to our own) are recently engaged and spreading the message ever further. Imagine such strength in the UK.

There is also this:

France 2011:

This was the first primary to be open to the general public. In order to participate to the open primary, voters had to meet the following conditions:

  • be registered in the French electoral lists before 31 December 2010 (or for French persons under 18: be 18 at the time of the 2012 presidential election, or be a member of Socialist Party (PS), Radical Party of the Left (PRG), Young Socialist Movement (MJS), or Young Radicals of the Left (JRG); foreigners will be able to vote if they are members of PS, PRG, MJS, or JRG);
  • pay a contribution of minimum €1;
  • sign a charter pledging to the values of the Left: “freedom, equality, fraternity, secularism, justice, solidarity and progress”.

The six candidates participated in three televised debates on 15 September, 28 September and 5 October 2011.

In the first round election day, around 2,700,000 voters cast their ballots: Hollande won 39 percent of the vote, followed by Aubry with 30 percent and Montebourg at 17 percent. Former presidential candidate Royal came in fourth place with 7 percent of the vote.[1]

Second round

On 9 October 2011, after the first results of the first round, Manuel Valls called his voters to cast their ballots in favor of François Hollande; on 10 and 12 October 2011, Jean-Michel Baylet and Ségolène Royal respectively announced they would support François Hollande. On 14 October 2011, Arnaud Montebourg did not instruct his voters how to vote, although he explained he would personally cast his ballot for Hollande.[82]

François Hollande and Martine Aubry contested a runoff election on 16 October 2011, after a televised debate held on 12 October 2011. Almost 2,900,000 voters participated to the second round: François Hollande won the primary with around 57 percent of the vote, becoming the official candidate of the Socialist Party and its allies for the 2012 presidential election.

In Progress in 2013 Axel Lemarie lauded the French primaries,

n 2011 the French Socialist party embraced the principle of an ‘open primary’ to select its candidate for the presidential election of 2012. This first experiment was a success in terms of both mobilising supporters and gaining media coverage. All registered voters were given the chance to take part in the selection process. In fact, in order to participate voters needed simply to sign a charter pledging allegiance to the values of the left and to pay a symbolic contribution of at least €1; they did not need to be members of the Socialist party. For the first time in France, a presidential candidate was chosen by the general public through a unique democratic and participative process.

More than 9,000 polling stations were open for the first round of the primary both in France and across the world. To ensure maximum legitimacy, an oversight body, comprising a prominent lawyer, a law professor and a specialist in ethics, was charged with registering the candidates, monitoring the elections and announcing the final results. To be declared the winner, a candidate needed to receive more than 50 per cent of the total votes cast. If no candidate received this, a second round was to be organised between the two leading first-round candidates.

Over 2.5 million people voted in the first round and in the second this number rose to around three million. Moreover, the televised debate between the two second-round candidates was a huge success, attracting an audience of around six million viewers, energising the party and dominating political coverage.

Building on this success, the party organised another open primary process for the local elections next March. It was also deemed a success. For example, in Marseilles, 23,440 voters participated in the second round of the primary, which represents around a quarter of those who voted for the Socialist party  during the last local elections in 2008. And it showed how the open primary process can be full of surprises. In the Marseilles contest, former minister Marie-Arlette Carlotti, the favourite to win the primary, was eliminated after the first round.

Impressed by the evidence from Italy and France, and no doubt the silver tongues of the Progress wordsmiths,  Labour came round to adopting their own version of the’ primary’ (they failed to spot one small cloud on the horizon – in France, the left candidate came from nowhere to 17%).

Against the wishes of many in the party, and almost by stealth, the new election system was set up.

Whatever the final results we can imagine that Progress are already celebrating their achievement.

 

 

Belgian General Strike Brings Country to a Halt.

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Socialist Party Leader Elio Di Rupo Backs Strikers.

Today the police in Belgium are observing a work-to-rule (grève du zèle).

The successful General Strike on Monday saw the country’s transport system grind to a halt, almost all public services closed, and workers in the private sector joined the protests.The unions also mobilised road Hauliers to bloc access to major cities.

There were a small number of clashes between strikers and scabs.

The left has described the strike as “historic”.

The International Monetary Fund has, however, just stated that the “reforms” launched the Belgian right-centred Coalition go in the “right direction” (La Libre Belgique).

Hard-right Bart de Weever, of the N-VA (Nieuw-Vlaamse Alliantie)which advocates the Scottish nationalist style  break-up of the state, and who is seen by many as the éminence grise of the government, denounced the strike as “political”.

There were tense moments when Trade Unionists protested outside the Brussels  headquarters of the N-VA shouting, “« N-VA, casse-toi, la Belgique n’est pas à toi », N-VA, Piss off! You don’t own Belgium!”

Further action is planned for mid-January.

At present negotiations are underway. Centre-right  Coalition Minister, Willy Borsus (MR – Mouvement réformateur ) has already dismissed the day of action saying that the turn-out was “modest” ( “La mobilisation fut modeste” ) Le Soir 

The Morning Star carries a good report.

BELGIAN trade unions capped a month of action against government austerity policies with a general strike today that paralysed air and rail traffic and halted businesses across the country.

The strike targeted measures by the nation’s right-of-centre government to cut into employees’ income, extend working hours and restrict social services.

The huge action had an immediate international impact since Brussels airport, a busy hub with connections throughout Europe and beyond, had no traffic whatsoever.

Airport spokeswoman Florence Muls said some 600 flights have been cancelled, affecting more than 50,000 passengers.

Flights to and from Belgium were grounded from late on Sunday as air traffic controllers joined the strike for the second Monday this month.

The series of trade union actions, which have been the toughest in years, started last month with a demonstration in the capital that drew more than 150,000 protesters.

The government led by new Prime Minister Charles Michel, who was sworn in two months ago, plans to cut expenditure by €11bn (£8.7bn) during the next five years.

The unions are opposing a government decision to scrap a cost-of-living wage rise next year. Belgian law currently mandates that wages rise at the same pace as inflation.

The unions are also protesting against public-sector cutbacks and plans to increase the retirement age.

The 24-hour strike was the largest to have taken place in Belgium for many years.

As well as the transport closures, it forced government offices and schools to close and the country’s ports were blockaded.

The Belgian government has claimed that it must operate its cuts strategy in order to stay within EU debt limits.

But the European Transport Workers’ Federation disagreed and welcomed the strike, warning that “the Belgian government is using EU austerity targets to penalise families, both employed and unemployed, students and the poorest people in society.

“It is not targeting the big capital that remains almost untouched by the government’s austerity measures.”

There is talk of extending trade union action into the new year, but concrete measures have yet to be put forward.

See also:« Messieurs De Wever et Michel, la Belgique en grève veut prendre un tout autre chemin que le vôtre »   Parti du travail de Belgique – Partij van de Arbeid van België (PTB – PVDA). Bruxelles. Et après le 15? On continue, bien sûr! Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire (LCR) et Socialistische arbeiderspartij (SAP)

General Strike in Belgium on Monday.

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Back our Belgian Sisters and Brothers!

BRUSSELS, Oct 16 (Reuters)

Belgium’s unions have called for a series of regional strikes culminating in a general strike on December 15 to voice their discontent over government plans to implement austerity measures and hike the pension age.

Belgium’s new federal government, which took office on Saturday, said it would raise the state pension age to 67 from 65, scrap a planned inflation-linked wage rise due next year and find savings in the public sector, including the health and social security budget.

“The government is deaf to the workers and recipients of social benefits but generous to the employers and the rich,” a common statement by the country’s three largest unions said.

The unions plan regional strikes every Monday starting November 24, culminating in a national strike on December 15.

The government said the austerity measures are needed to balance Belgium’s budget by 2018 and tackle the country’s national debt of about 100 percent of economic output, one of the highest in the euro zone. (Reporting by Robert-Jan Bartunek; Editing by Dominic Evans)

The general strike has been called by the FGTB (socialist), CSC (Christian) et CGSLB (liberal).

The scale of the action promises to be enormous.

Transport will be paralysed, public services will grind to a halt, the Union belge du transport (UBT) has urged lorry drivers to join the movement, and many in the private sector will support the mass protests (more here).

And…

Des piquets de grève temporaires « volants », des cellules qui bloqueront donc différents points capitaux au cours de la journée, seront mis en place ce lundi et des équipes de militants de la FGTB se tiendront prêtes à venir porter renfort aux piquets manquant d’effectifs.

‘Flying pickets’ , that is ‘cells’ of moving strikers, will block different sectors of the Capital during the day. They will be set up by activists from the FGTB (socialist/social democrat union federation) who will help any pickets that need reinforcements.

The day will be marked by demonstrations in the streets.

More details in Le Soir.

Bart de Wever, the leader of the Flemish nationalist party (N-VA) and part of the ruling ‘Michel Coaltion’ (hard right to centre right),has criticised the strikes.

He said yesterday that the unions had come out with “une véritable désinformation et parfois de vrais mensonges” misinformation and sometimes outright lies. De Wever accsued the trade unions of being the “”bras armé du PS”, the armed wing, of the Socialist Party.

The leader of the Socialist Party (Parti Socialiste, and former Prime Minister, Di Rupo has backed the strikes – though underlines that the union federations have taken this action independently and on their own initiative.

La  Libre Belgique.

Strike Paralyses Brussels.

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Fight for Public Services in Belgium.

Before next Monday’s general strike Brussels has been brought to a halt by strikes (part of a series of ‘ grèves tournantes’ rotating strikes) today.

Belgian workers striking against government austerity plans have badly snarled rail and air service to and from the capital city of Brussels.

As of Monday morning, 44 percent of flights at Brussels main airport were reported canceled.

Labour union leaders announced they have also shut down Eurostar and Thalys train service to and from London, Paris and other international destinations.

Metro, bus and tram service in Brussels itself has ground to a halt.

The one-day strike, which also affects the French-speaking Brabant region south of Brussels, is the latest in a series of union actions intended to force the government of Prime Minister Charles Michel to backtrack on a programme to reform pensions, cut health and social security budgets and raise the retirement age.

Huffington Post

Le Soir reports on mass picketing and the barricades preventing traffic entry to the Belgium Capital (a map of these is published in the paper). The police have been called to a picket at the Saint-Gilles Prison.

This morning listening to the public radio station, La Première, I was impressed by the sheer number of pickets (over 500 in Brussels alone).

La Libre Belgique also publishes extensive reports.

More information on the site Solidarité Ouvrière.

Trade Union news on the General Strike (of all the 3 major union federations, ACV-CSC (Christian), la ABVV-FGTB (Socialist) et la ACLVB-CGSLB(Liberal)  of the 15th of December: 15/12 grève nationale.

Largest Far left Party: Partij van de Arbeid van België, PVDA Parti du Travail de Belgique, PTB

Video of Socialist Party (social democratic) participation in 6th of November mass demonstration against austerity, here.

Written by Andrew Coates

December 8, 2014 at 11:32 am