ETUC leader, Bernadette Ségol speaks to UnionNews at European Commission protest

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Workers in Belgium laid siege to the European Commission today, joining millions of trade unionists across Europe in the biggest show of civil defiance so far against EU austerity.

The action – dubbed the “European General Strike” – saw 40 trade unions across 23 countries take part in strike action, stoppages and mass protests throughout the continent.

And EU leaders were left in no doubt about how unpopular their pro-big business policies are as European Trade Union Confederation [ETUC] leaders led a thousand-strong protest outside the European Commission HQ in Brussels.

Trade union leaders from every sector took it in turns to urge workers to resist “fiscal Europe” and to fight for policies of employment and growth.

Speaking to UnionNews, ETUC general secretary Bernadette Ségol said: “To the European Union, we say: no to austerity.”

“You have to stop policies that have failed dramatically bringing unemployment up and poverty up. This is not the Europe we want.”

The ETUC leader however refused to be drawn on further coordinated strike action until the confederation meets to “take stock” next month.

But in a message to workers in Britain, Ms Segol added: “We are with you. We are in solidarity with you against the austerity being carried in UK.”

General Secretary of the CSC/ACV union, Claude Rolin, evoked the spirit of social reformer Maynard Keynes calling for the “protection of wages of workers all over Europe.”

“When the economy is not in a state to give a job to everybody, the state [government] has to take measures to do so,” he said.

Fellow union member Pierre Periens highlighted the controversial issue of “social dumping” where the internal EU market is used to bring in cheap foreign labour into Belgium.

“It is not the fault of those workers from abroad,” he said.

“Companies and sub-contractors are organising to undermine the wages and the all the collective agreements that are applying here in Belgium.”

And FGTB/ABVV Belgian Socialist Confederation of Labor youth member “Katrine” who was bashing an empty pan to symbolise her hunger for change told UnionNews: “I really hope they [EU leaders] will listen to us. We are the 99 percent so eventually they have to listen.

“And they say if the 99 percent are hungry and there is nothing left to eat, we will eat the one percent.”


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