Thousands of Belgian civil workers stage a protest in Brussels as European Union leaders negotiate the 2014-2020 budget in the European Parliament (EP) in the city. Over seven thousand Belgian public sector servants partaking in the protest are angry over possible salary cuts coming from the Belgium government as the leaders from Germany, Britain, and France intend to lower the EU’s one trillion euro spending budget. According to local reporters, protesters, including police officers and prison guards, have said both the Belgian government and the EU are ignoring their right to negotiate through their unions on matters that dictate their lives. They have accused the government of replacing retiring public servants with automated machines and information technology as well as stripping workers of annual bonus payments. “They [the government] let people go on pension and they don't take in new people,” Socialist Public Service Union (ACOD) delegate, Peter Veltmans said.
He added that the government replaces the “diminishing work force” with “information technology” that they say, “Will solve all the problems.”Belgium’s Secretary of State for Public Services Hendrik Bogaert "strips the unions, strips the workers, he cancels the bonuses and he takes measures that are not even agreed by the government," Gilles Vanoosthuijze of the Free Union of Public Servants said. The protest comes only a day after hundreds of ArcelorMittal steelworkers from Belgium, France and Luxembourg scuffled with police outside the EP in France’s eastern city Strasbourg. A similar riot happened on January 25 when ArcelorMittal workers clashed with Belgian security forces in Brussels in a protest against the announcement of plans to shut seven steelmaking facilities in the country. GVN/HN