The action is prompted by record inflation, driven by expensive energy prices. The unions are asking the government to make energy affordable, for example through more government control or by taxing and redistributing the super profits of energy companies. “Putting on an extra sweater or lowering the heating a few degrees will not suffice. Many families simply run out of savings options and have their backs against the wall,” it sounds.
Last week, in addition to extending the social tariff, the federal government announced measures to ease the bill for the middle class by several hundred euros. But for the ABVV “measures must be taken in proportion to the seriousness of the situation. By purchasing power we mean the ability to live with dignity, and not just to survive.”
Another point of contention for the unions is the abolition of the wage standard law. This stipulates that wages may not rise much more than the index, while some companies still make large profits and can therefore let their staff benefit. The unions want freedom to negotiate, especially now that purchasing power is under pressure.
Companies pay for inflation through rising wages, while they cannot pass on all costs themselves.
Voka CEO Hans Maertens
There is a lot of misunderstanding among employers for today’s action. Voka employers’ organization points out that purchasing power in Belgium is indeed protected by automatic wage indexation. “This means that the invoice for the most part ends up with the companies. They pay for inflation through rising wages, while they cannot pass on all the costs themselves. Anyone who is now campaigning for more wage increases comes from a different planet,” says Voka CEO Hans Maertens.
He estimates the invoice for the companies to be 31 billion euros until 2024, causing Belgian export companies to price themselves out of the market. Voka therefore wants a debate about automatic wage indexation.