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Belgium police hit anti-austerity protesters with water cannon and pepper spray at European Trade Union Confederation rally in Brussels against EU

Officers bring down fist on 20,000 workers as they call for investment, jobs and growth

Belgian police blasted anti-austerity protesters in Brussels yesterday with water cannon and pepper spray.

The demonstration in the Belgian capital, in which thousands took part peacefully, was called by the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) to protest against austerity measures across the European Union.

Protesters also voiced their concerns over social dumping, whereby businesses import cheaper workers to replace local labour or export jobs to a low-wage country or area.

Around 20,000 people faced a heavy-handed police response after clashes started between cops and dockers from Antwerp and Gent who led the march.

Violent clashes also took place near the US embassy, prompting a lockdown of the building.

Trade union representatives from across the EU had gathered following a call from the ETUC demanding “a new way for Europe.”

The trade unions are demanding an economic policy that involves “no austerity, but big investment aimed at steady economic growth and quality jobs,” said ETUC spokeswoman Emanuela Bonacina.

It also suggested measures such as yearly investments at 2 per cent of GDP over the next 10 years to stimulate new private investment.

Speaking ahead of the demonstration, British TUC general council spokesman on Europe and CWU general secretary Billy Hayes said: “Trade unions all over Europe are campaigning for more and better jobs, a greener, safer future and equality and fairness for all.

“Our new path for Europe will create 11 million new jobs and end the scandal of zero-hours contracts and agency work loopholes.

“We want a people’s Europe, not a bankers’ and bosses’ Europe.”

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