Once in a while, we stagehands get called up for a job that makes us ask again, “I’m sorry- what where?” In that category, was the job for a union conference last week. Apparently, ABVV, the “Common  Belgian Union”, has time and money to hold a large conference while strikes are crippling the country, and roads being blocked for workers who don’t have the opinion, time or option not to work.

My employer was doing the production, I could tell that was a terribly boring job because he was around on the floor, the whole day. He explained that the customer insisted he’d be there, even though there was little to nothing to do for him that he hadn’t done already in preparation. He also proceeded to explain a few other things.
Apparently the union actually owned the whole building. Not just the conference venue, but the dozens of meeting rooms around it as well. And the cafetaria, restaurant and café, each bigger than anything I’ve ever seen. Also, the table-tennis room, tea-room, and a bunch more like this. Built on top was a hotel the size of a large hospital, for union member to stay at at reduced price. My employer asked for a room there because of the long drive (2 hours omg) and since the whole building was eerily empty anyway, they gave him the penthouse, where Bruce fucking Springsteen once stayed.

I then learned that the union owns not 1, not 2, but 3 of these monstrosities, all over Belgium for union members to have holidays at.

I’m not in a union. In fact, because I work with day contracts and there are too few full-time employees, our company doesn’t have a union at all. Since I am officially unemployed, I can still join as such however, and have them represent my “rights” as a “person looking for work while earning a social fee”. Apparently, these rights do not include to go work when I damn well please, because they’re out there defending them, blocking people all over Brussels on the day that we built their conference.

“Never without us” was their slogan, and I find that worrying. Now, I fully respect the right to unionize. The existence of unions is essential to our democracy and the pressure must never be let off, but seriously:
Who the fuck do they think they are? Floor to ceiling, the walls were decorated with socialism-inspired art, of workers in the 50s, going to work at 5am, full of slogans about our standard of life.
What we got instead, were a couple of fat, lazy-ass technicians who disappeared at the first chance they saw. As they solved problems, you’d think this was their first time, having to call each other up on their nearly-dead cell phone in a building with hardly any reception whenever one left the room. While looking for our second location, I ran into them in the bar during working hours, and I had to ask twice before they could be arsed to point me in the right direction.
One time, we needed them and some representative called them up, before telling us we’d have to wait 15 minutes because their “official coffee break had just started.”

I’m not saying everyone should work like we do. 24-hour jobs, sometimes going without food or water, doing shit we honestly find dehumanizing. We choose for it and I will never ask anyone to follow us. But this? It’s laziness, nothing less. They got paid a full day’s wage, much more than us, and they worked for maybe 3 hours. All fine and dandy, but this money comes out of the pockets of honest, hard-working idiots. Where the fuck do they think this money comes from? If they have nothing better to do with it than build resorts, hold conferences and hire the laziest, most incompetent crew in the existence of stage business, should we be so fucking surprised when another car factory gets relocated to Poland?

They might believe they are still the socialist bastion that fed the people and I will readily admit, they once were, but this is plain decadence. This is more for less, lobbying to force just a little more pay, a little less work, one more holiday, and screaming bloody murder when something that was given in the past, is taken back. Unions these days feast on people’s laziness and greed, and it’s no surprise to see how powerful they’ve become. I think their function should be re-invented but as they did with the people trying to work at their own fucking strike (who do you think builds the entertainment?), they’d just gang up and threaten me if I voiced my opinion too loudly. This is what is called, abuse of power. I didn’t think we, the people were so capable at it.

I am not in a union, no. Once upon a time I thought it was a good idea and went to enlist, and when I walked into the office, the employee rolled his eyes at me. Because I was giving him work in the last hour before closing time. I changed my mind that same month.
On December 15th, the unions are organizing a nation-wide strike to protest against the government’s decision that some of us will retire at age 65. It’s what my grade school teacher explained to me: We have a large generation that is growing old and not enough young folks to keep the economy going. People will have to work longer. But now that the hammer has dropped, we all freak out and engage in the figurative equivalent of one ant kicking the other in the balls, hoping that the anteater will feel the pain.
God forbid, I’ll be asked to work there. I’ll refuse, because I have the right to go on strike against this anti-social, despicable behavior.


2 responses

  1. I thought they were protesting against raising the retirement age from 65 to 67, and that’s not even the main issue at a stake for the unions. Also: if it were true that they are not enough young people to do all the jobs, then why is youth unemployment extremely high all over Europe? In Belgium there are 17 job hunters for every official vacancy. And the way these vacancies are counted usually results in a far too high count (the same vacancy being counted twice, a two hour a week ‘job’ being counted as a vacancy, etc). And yes, unions are very, ehm, well off. They are almost like states within the state. They have lots of cashflow and aren’t always very transparent about it either. The same goes for political parties. Lots of money gets wasted and it’s very much a hobnobbing world, if you’re well connected you get ahead, if you are not terribly good at kissing asses, you don’t. But that’s true in almost any area of employment, isn’t it? Keep on blogging.


    JOB= Just over broke

    and in Dutch: Jammerlijk onbevredigende beproeving

    9 December 2014 at 10:29

  2. at stake, God, not at a stake (too little sleep…)

    9 December 2014 at 10:30

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