by Arthur Foxake, 21 September 2022
Thousands of protestors gridlocked the streets of belgian capital city Brussels on Wednesday 21 September for a “national day of action” in support of trade union demands for higher wages and lower energy prices. According to Belgian police, over 10,000 people from all over Belgium gathered in capital as items in broadcast and print news revealed that an estimated 65% of the country’s households are struggling to pay their bills.
The demonstration was organized by Belgian trade unions, who claim that the average energy bill for families in the country has increased by 300% to more than €700 ($691) a month since the beginning of the year.
“It’s not that we don’t want to pay, but we can’t pay,” said Thierry Bodson, chairman of the General Labor Federation of Belgium, as he addressed thousands of union members at the Place de la Monnaie. With the average income for a Belgian family only amounting to €2,500 ($2,468) a month, Bodson asserted that it’s “absolutely impossible” for someone below that line to pay their bills.
Referencing the government’s advice that citizens use less energy, Bodson said this was “pointless,” as most families have already cut back as far as possible on energy use to lower their bills but it has still not been enough to counter the steep rise in gas and electricity prices.
Placards seen in the crowds shared Bodson’s sentiments with slogans demanding “Freeze prices, not peoplbeene,” and “Everything is going up except our wages.”
protesters are demanding that the government do more to combat
skyrocketing food and fuel prices, and advising that additional help for families be funded by a windfall tax on energy companies that have reported record profits this year and
made billions while the standard of living for average income groups has
Last month, Belgium’s Statbel statistics agency reported that inflation in the country had jumped to 9.94% amid a surge in energy prices, almost reaching a record set in 1976.
Meanwhile, Belgian Prime Minister Alexander de Croo has warned that “the next five to ten winters will be difficult” due to record gas prices, but stated that Belgium would endure the crisis “if we support each other in these difficult times.”