Photo: The Bulletin https://www.thebulletin.be
The BWI Belgian affiliates ACV-BIE and CG FGTB reported today that Belgium was officially placed under a lockdown until 5 April as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This makes Belgium the latest country to impose such a measure. The decision was taken by the government's National Security Council, together with the Prime Minister, who obtained special powers for six months to address the health crisis.
Belgians are asked to stay at home to avoid the spread of COVID-19. Only essential movements are allowed such as buying of food and medicine, going to banks, petrol stations and post offices, attending medical appointments and helping elderly relatives.
The authorities call on the population to strictly respect containment measures, which they say are the only ones capable of limiting the spread of the crisis. Such action will also reduce the pressure on hospitals, already at risk of overcrowding.
The Belgian trade unions said that big construction companies such as Willemen, Belgium's biggest construction company, and Besix have shut down all their construction sites. Unions have reported that authorities have also suspended the operations of several other construction sites, including those in Namur province.
Before this, the construction unions have called on their members to comply with federal recommendations to strictly enforce social distancing. However, some companies were reportedly not fully compliant. The BWI affiliates have raised concerns regarding the workers' health and safety, especially their travel to work, the lack of access to disinfectants to clean their hands and construction equipment, cramped refectories and language barrier problems with several foreign subcontractors. They also reported that while some big companies are paying workers at 100 percent ; others are only paying them at 70 percent of their gross salary.
According to the latest figures, Belgium has had 1,486 confirmed cases of COVID19 and 14 deaths. Yesterday, 756 of the confirmed cases were in Flanders, 303 in Wallonia and 153 in Brussels.
To help ensure the health and welfare of the working people, particularly construction workers, BWI Belgian affiliates call on their fellow unions in construction and other partner trade unions to help disseminate campaign posters calling for the social and economic protection of workers against the pandemic. The posters are available in different languages:
and other materials only in French