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Thousands protest against austerity in Brussels

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Thousands of trade union members demonstrated against European austerity measures in Brussels on Tuesday. Police said some 5,000 people attended the demonstration to call for better wage conditions and social justice.

Members of unions from Belgium, France, Italy, and Spain, among others, joined forces under the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC).

The demonstration was held at the same time as the meeting of European finance ministers in Brussels, where new budgetary rules for the entire European Union (EU) were being discussed.

Thierry Bodson, president of the General Labor Federation of Belgium (FGTB), warned that austerity measures in Belgium would lead to spending cuts of 4 billion euros (4.32 billion U.S. dollars) to 5 billion euros a year.

Protesters were critical of governments saving money at the expense of pensions, social security, public services, and investment in business. Marie-Helene Ska, general secretary of the Confederation of Christian Trade Unions (CSC), emphasized CSC’s rejection of budget cuts that compromise pensions.

The issue of wages, and wage equality between men and women, was also at the heart of protesters’ demands. Basile Ackermann, who came to the demonstration from Aulnay-sous-Bois in France, underlined that wage increases in France remain below inflation, reducing workers’ purchasing power.

The protesters also called for an EU budget policy focused on protecting the planet, creating quality jobs, ensuring the accessibility of public services, and reducing inequality.

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