Firefighters from all over Belgium took to the streets of Brussels on Tuesday to protest their current working conditions and the government’s plans to reform the pension system.
On Tuesday morning, firefighters gathered to demand more staff and resources. The group asking for retirement at 60 and for work-related diseases to be recognised also denounced the pension plan, which aims to raise the retirement age to 67.
In ten years, their workload has increased by more than 60% in Brussels only, while the workforce has remained almost the same, Pierre Adams, CGSP delegate for the Brussels fire brigade, told RTL during the protest.
Delegations met with Interior Minister Annelies Verlinden and Public Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke, but they were told that negotiations were not possible on the retirement side, RTL reported.
Some protesters also entered the European Commission building, and firecrackers were thrown inside, but the protesters were pushed back by police, notably with the use of tear gas.
This protest is part of the week-long mobilisation (6-10 March) of public service workers, which was announced at the start of February by the Common Front of Trade Unions (CGSP, SLFP, CSC).
Like the French, the Belgian government is currently working on a pension reform plan, mainly because pensions are increasing the budget burden.
Pensions account for about half of the social security budget (€133 billion), which is also structurally in deficit, as the social contributions paid by employers and employees are insufficient to finance the benefits paid out.
In 2023, the Federal government should compensate for this deficit to the tune of some €50 billion, according to L’Echo.
(Anne-Sophie Gayet | EURACTIV.com)