Despite a harsh blizzard and traffic disruptions 250 people braved the weather to gather in Brussels, at the buildings of the Christian trade union CSC/ACV, to pay homage to the recently deceased President of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez. Erik Demeester of the Hands Off Venezuela (HOV) campaign and Veronique Coteur of Intal explained the political significance of the gathering: ‘Hugo Chavez was not only a president of Venezuela. He was above all an international revolutionary leader.

The water cannons and flash-balls1 used by the police in Brussels, Namur and Strasbourg were not enough to cool the anger of the Walloon steelworkers.  Images of the steelworkers in violent clashes with the police have been circulated internationally. Their anger erupted after the steel giant ArcelorMittal said it would close seven of the twelve cold processing facilities in Liège, eliminating 1300 jobs. 

'A company that only makes money is not good business'. pThis phrase from Henry Ford does not appear to be an inspiration for Stephen Odell, the current CEO of Ford Europe. Money seems to be the only reason for its industrial policy, as shownby the announced plant closures in Genk and Southampton (UK).The announcement on October 24 of the plant closures and the layoffs of 4500 workers in Belgium and 500 in the UK are another nail in the coffin of the European automotive sector.

Late on the night of Sunday, February 26, twenty black hooded strongmen – so-called security guards of an unknown company – were escorted out of the Meister Benelux engineering plant by the police. They had arrived from Germany (!) earlier that day driving vans and trucks. Armed with baseball bats, rubber truncheons, teargas sprays and bulletproof jackets, they entered the company with the aim of organising the delivery of car parts to the automotive industry in Germany.

On January 30 the three Belgian trade unions called a 24-hour general strike in both the public and private sectors. It was the first general strike since 1993. The immediate background was the public sector general strike on December 22 against the austerity measures of the new Socialist Party government led by Elio Di Rupo.

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