Belgium: row over right to strike
The Liège Court of Appeal has handed down suspended sentences to 17 trade unionists from the Fédération générale du travail de Belgique (FGBT) for willfully obstructing traffic. In 2015, the strikers blocked a section of the E40 motorway, preventing any vehicles, including emergency services, from passing. FGBT leader Thierry Bodson now plans to take the case to the European Court of Human Rights.
The Court of Appeal's decision is counterproductive, Le Soir warns:
“At a time when Poland has decided to put national law above European law, it shows how useful it is to invoke European law and a body that can give its view on the restriction of the right to strike - with an eye to respect for human rights. ... The question is how to strike a balance between the right of citizens to freely express their displeasure and the preservation of public order. We will have to be very careful that the anger we try to banish from strikes does not erupt elsewhere, without regard for law and order. As with the yellow vest movement.”
Time for new rules
It should not become the rule for social protest to be negotiated in court, L'Echo insists:
“Instead, the boundaries of what is and is not allowed during a strike need to be redefined. The 'gentlemen's agreement' which has governed the right to strike since 2002 is now very outdated. Employers and unions who failed to renew it in 2016 would only benefit from a revision. Above all, more precise rules are needed to prevent rule-breaking such as roadblocks and railway blockades. It is high time the right to strike was updated!”