The new Belgian government was sworn in 11 October 2014. Four weeks later and trade unions came together to send a strong message of opposition to new austerity measures announced by the federal government.
Trade unions took to the streets to oppose, among other things, the proposed two year wage freeze and the removal of the link between public sector pay and inflation rates. Despite the demonstrations, social dialogue is set to continue between the government and trade unions. Social dialogue is essential for government reforms to be both acceptable for workers and sustainable in the long term.
The protests came on the eve of new reports on tax evasion in Luxembourg, which has seen companies being privy to complex tax systems which has seen the public purses in Europe deprived of billions of euros. The report, released on the first week of the new European Commission, has put pressure on new Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, who is credited with supporting the system during his time as Prime Minister.
Finance Ministers, meeting in Brussels today (7 November), will undoubtedly discuss the issue at length with Luxembourg. MEPs are also calling on the Commission to come to the European Parliament to clarifiy and explain these “legal and normal” practices.
Commenting on this week’s developments, CESI Secretary General Klaus Heeger, pictured above, said, “There is a reason people are taking to the streets in protest – austerity measures are continuing to hurt the hard workers in society. What the luxleaks case demonstrates is that governments are stripping back public services but at the same time encouraging companies in tax evasion. The Luxemburgish Finance Minister called these “legal and normal practices”. There should be nothing legal or normal about tax evasion. The solutions exist, there is just a lack of political will in Europe to put them in place”.