Massive workers’ demonstration in Brussels seeks wage increase amid worsening cost of living crisis

Over 80,000 people marched in Brussels demanding that the government repeal the 1996 Wage Margin Act that acts as an obstacle to negotiating a maximum average wage increase

June 22, 2022 by Peoples Dispatch
Workers Protest - Belgium
Workers’ demonstration in Brussels. (Photo: via ABVV)

On Monday, June 20, working class sections in Belgium organized a massive demonstration in the capital city of Brussels, protesting the cost of living crisis and reiterating their demand for a significant wage increase. Over 80,000 people joined the demonstration, including cadres of various trade unions like the General Labor Federation of Belgium (ABVV/FGTB), Confederation of Christian Trade Unions (ACV/CSC), and General Confederation of Liberal Trade Unions of Belgium (ACLVB/CGSLB), as well as activists from political parties such as the Workers’ Party of Belgium (PTB/PVDA) and the Communist Party of Belgium (PCB/CPB). Several student and youth groups also participated in the mobilization. 

Workers across Europe, including in Belgium, have been organizing mobilizations to protest the ongoing cost of living crisis. Trade unions and progressive political parties are demanding a general increase in wages to mitigate the crisis marked by skyrocketing food and energy prices. 

Belgian trade unions view the 1996 Wage Margin Act, which establishes a strict procedure for the Belgian social partners to negotiate a maximum average wage increase, as a major impediment to increasing wages in the country.

While addressing the mobilization in Brussels on Monday, Miranda Ulens of the ABVV/FGTB stated: “80,000 women and men from all corners of the country demand structural measures for purchasing power in Brussels. Because life is more than just surviving.”

On June 21, PTB president Raoul Hedebouw told L’Echo that “across the country, pressure is mounting around workers’ purchasing power. On 20 June, the unions took to the streets to demand higher wages and lower bills. This has been a mobilization on a scale not seen in years. More than 80,000 people took to the streets. With a unanimous message: the 1996 law must be urgently reviewed. The wage freeze must be lifted. We must put an end to this law that predicts maximum increases in real wages of… 0% for the next four years. This is not tenable. Neither economically or socially. This message is carried by the entire working class, its trade unions and its political relays. It must be heard. Right now.”

The PCB/CPB alleged that “It is the imperialist institutions such as the European Union (EU), the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), that are now pushing and supporting the bourgeois states in it, to dismantle the collective social gains, to be able to increase the competitiveness of the corporations.”