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Private-sector workers plan national strike on 29 March

20:52 14/03/2021

Trade unions representing private-sector workers are planning a nationwide strike on 29 March.

The "Group of 10" - which brings together management and unions - have been negotiating wages and working conditions in the private sector since January.

The stumbling block has been how much wages are allowed to increase above the cost of living index. The Central Council for Trade and Industry (CRB) puts the limit at 0.4 percentage points for the next two years.

The labour unions demand that sectors that are doing well during the pandemic, such as the pharmaceutical sector or supermarkets, should increase pay by more than 0.4 percentage points above the index, while the employers argue that this period of economic and health crisis is no time to increase the raise.

Attempts to strike a deal ahead of the 14 March legal deadline failed. In the event of a definite stalemate, the federal government will have to take control.

Pieter Timmermans, chief executive of the Federation of Belgian Enterprises wrote on Twitter: "The height of unreality? After the biggest economic shock ever felt, a 6.5% loss in GDP, to paralyse the country because a wage increase of 3.2% is too low."

Written by Richard Harris