Attack on trade union freedom and the right to strike in Belgium
Belgian Supreme Court upholds criminal convictions in the case of "Cheratte Bridge"
On 22 March 2022, the Belgian Court of Cassation (Supreme Court) confirmed the sentence pronounced in November 2020 by the criminal court in the so-called "Cheratte Bridge" case, confirmed by the Court of Appeal in October 2021.17 trade unionists, affiliates and leaders of the Fédération Générale du Travail de Belgique (FGTB), including President Thierry Bodson, were given suspended prison sentences - of 15 days or one month - and fines ranging between 1,200 and 2,100 euros, depending on the individual cases, for being present at a roadblock that took place during a general strike, on 19 October 2015.
This judgment is based on the offence of "malicious obstruction of traffic" provided for in Article 406 of the Belgian Penal Code. The same legal basis was already used in the trial that led to the conviction of the President of the Antwerp FGTB, Bruno Verlaeckt, in 2019.
In their plea, the defendants invoked, among others, the right to collective bargaining as enshrined in article 6§4 of the Revised European Social Charter. The court however denied that the defendants could rely on article 6§4 stating that it was lacking the clarity required to confer direct effect.
The FGTB considers the convictions to be a restriction of the right to strike and right to freedom of association. For this reason, the FGTB intends to appeal the decision of the Court of Appeal and to petition the European Court of Human Rights as well as the International Labour Organisation if necessary.
For more information please see the FGTB's press release in French here.
The full text of the Supreme Court judgement can be found in French here.