Tens of thousands of workers marched through the centre of Brussels close to the European Union headquarters today, to protest against cuts that have hit their pay and stopped index-linked pay rises, and to demand initiatives to boost employment.
The march was organised by the country's three main trade unions under the call "for spending power, against the freezing of salaries, for full salary indexation with inflation and for fairer and more progressive taxation."
Out of solidarity, Belgium's main broadcaster delayed its news programmes by several seconds.
Trade unions had expected a turn-out of around 15,000 people, but reports estimated that up to 40,000 people marched after the ministers of finance and pensions met a delegation of trade unionists.
Minister of Employment Monica De Coninck also met the trade union leaders.
Protests were also held in other parts of the country and workers at the ArcelorMittal steelworks in Liege - a site that has been warned to expect hundreds of job losses and production-line closures - were set to go on strike for 24 hours.
But the EU Commission said on Wednesday that ArcelorMittal boss Lakshmi Mittal had agreed, after talks with EU Industrial Commissioner Antonio Tajani, to suspend all restructuring programmes until the commission publishes its plan for Europe's steel industry this summer and it was not clear how many people responded to the strike call.
But working people in Belgium are not taking austerity lightly and there have been a succession of protests in Brussels recently.
Just two weeks ago, more than 10,000 civil servants took to the streets of the city to oppose extensive job losses being sneaked in by the Belgian government's policy of natural wastage and non-replacement of staff.