From Belgium: to strike or not to strike
woensdag 25 januari 2012 15:40
Life is good in Belgium. Of course we have the problems of the Western world but we have a good social security system, the majority of the population is at work, in school or enjoys the pleasures of an early retirement. (Of course this picture is too optimistic because we do have unemployment, immigrants waiting for official papers, psycho-killers and suicides but still …).
For all these blessings we have to thank politicians dedicated to the social welfare of the population and the trade unions who fought for and defended the rights of the workers. But the unions have a problem today.
The Belgian government decided on a series of measurements to tackle the present crisis situation. To sustain our system we should work a few years longer. The system is based on solidarity. What we pay today, is used today.  
The people seem to accept that because they see that the same decisions are taken in the surrounding countries. They understand that it is impossible to continue to pay the retirement fees in the future when there will be less young people at work.
The unions on the other hand are not happy and organize a national strike next Monday, 30 January to protest against the measures. But there is protest against the protest. Not only the employers’ organizations say it is a bad idea to bring the country to a standstill for a day but also the men and women in the street, in the offices or the workshops oppose the strike. And worth mentioning: the youth is opposed to the action of the unions. It is clear that the workers organizations have a problem. Then why do they persevere? Maybe because there are social elections in 2012.
In May social elections are organized in all companies with at least 50 employees. The employees elect their representatives in the ‘works council’ and the ‘committee for health and safety at work’ for the next 4 years. Only the members of the official union organizations are eligible and every union wants to be the winner.
Many people are afraid that the strike will have a negative impact on the image of this country and that investors will think twice before they decide to come to Belgium, or pull out. Or maybe they are just fed up with all the troubles a general strike causes. University students have exams and will have problems to get to the location where it takes place. And all those who want to go to work will have to look for alternative transport means as the public transport will be deranged.
The strike organized in the public services in December was a failure. Even the union leaders admit that. They lose credibility, especially among young people.
I would advise the unions to think of a new communication strategy.
And for all those who plan to travel to Belgium on Monday: don’t.