Today, 29 September 2010, thousands of trade unionists from across the European Union (EU) are marching in Brussels, Belgium, the home of the European Commission, to protest against sweeping austerity measures by many national governments. The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) says its protest could be one of the biggest in Belgium’s capital for years and is a significant manifestation of the anger of working people over the global economic crisis set off by bankers and financial institutions.
ETUC General Secretary John Monks commented: “On 29 September, we will demonstrate to voice our concern over the economic and social context, which will be compounded by austerity measures. We are particularly alarmed over unemployment and rising inequalities. To cope with increasing precariousness, priority must be given to quality jobs. This is the message that we intend to transmit to European Commission President Mr Barroso and the current President of the EU Council Mr Leterme, whom we will meet after the demonstration.”
A general strike has begun in Spain and protests are planned in Greece, Portugal, Italy, Latvia, Poland, Cyprus, Romania, Czech Republic, Lithuania, Serbia, France and Ireland. Many governments across the 27-EU member bloc have been forced to impose punishing cuts in wages, pensions and employment to deal with spiralling debts. In Greece and the Republic of Ireland, unemployment figures are at their highest level in 10 years, while Spain’s unemployment has doubled in just three years. In Britain, the government is planning to slash public spending by up to 25 per cent, while France has seen recent angry protests against a planned increase in the minimum retirement age.
The ETUC says the protesters will be marching on EU institutions to voice their anger over budget-slashing plans and cuts which “could lead Europe into a recession”. It warns that the financial crisis has already made 23 million people across the EU jobless. It fears that the austerity measures being implemented by various EU governments could “result in even more unemployment”. “We didn't cause this crisis. The bill has to be paid by banks, not by workers,” ETUC said and went on to urge governments to guarantee workers stable jobs, strong social protection and better pensions.
Speaking in support of the ETUC action, Kailash Satyarthi, Global March Chairperson, said: “We have already warned governments and the international community and institutions of the inevitable negative impact of the austerity measures being taken in response to the economic crisis. These cuts will hurt the poor and vulnerable most and make little difference to the lives and jobs of those who contributed significantly to the global crisis in the first place.”
He went on to point out that: “In the recent joint high-level ILO-IMF conference, the dangers of severe public sector cuts were highlighted, as was the need to moderate the speed and level at which these cuts are implemented. High-level politicians took part in this conference and heard the advice from economic experts, including the IMF. So, why aren’t these recommendations being followed? Why are deep and severe cuts continuing? Why are billions of dollars still being poured into shoring up failing financial institutions and industries at a time when millions of vulnerable people are being denied vital public services and social protection? We share the concerns and frustrations of the ETUC and its members and we would like to express our solidarity with them as they march through the cities of Europe to protect jobs and livelihoods.”
For more information on the demonstrations and the ETUC, click here.