Collective of self-employed workers from catering industry goes to court … (Brussels)

A collective of mainly Walloon self-employed people from the hotel and catering industry and adjacent sectors has hired a lawyer to legally challenge the mandatory closure of cafés and restaurants. The events sector, in turn, denounces the ‘unfair’ treatment of aid measures.

A group of self-employed people, restaurant owners, traders and others have announced that they will take legal action against the closure of the catering industry. The collective, which uses the abbreviation CIMS (Collectif Indépendant Multi sectoriel) feels discriminated against and argues that the decision of the federal government to close cafes and restaurants for four weeks is not based on (sufficient) scientific evidence.

‘We are not only defending cafes and restaurants, but also a whole series of businesses and companies that are strongly feeling the impact of the closure,’ says restaurant owner and CIMS spokesperson Gilles Hoyoux. CIMS is supported by the Fédération Patronale Interprofessionnelle SDI – the Syndicate of the Self-Employed – and the catering federations of Liège, Namur and Walloon Brabant. A number of informal groups, which arose during the first lockdown and mostly via social media, also endorse the action.

‘Disproportionate and discriminatory’

The collective tries to obtain redress in two ways: by challenging the mandatory closure – which has yet to be published in the Belgian Official Gazette – at the Council of State (in case of urgency), and also via the Court of First Instance in Liège.

“We believe this is a disproportionate and discriminatory measure,” explains lawyer Clément Pesesse, responsible for the file. In March, the lockdown was general and affected everyone. Why is it now specifically targeting the catering industry? It is a measure that is impossible to foresee and that will be imposed today after tomorrow. That is why there is an error on the part of the Belgian state. ‘

The crisis envelope of 500 million euros is far, far too little ‘, the CIMS concludes. On Saturday Horeca Vlaanderen already announced that it could possibly start legal proceedings, although the organization called the consultation on the support measures this morning ‘constructive’.

#SoundOfSilence

The events sector is also making itself heard by targeting not so much the closure but the ‘unfair’ support measures. Under the motto #SoundOfSilence, the events sector issued a press release on Sunday, which is bathed in disappointment. The hospitality industry gets support, the event industry is not. The signatories believe that sectors are played off against each other and discriminated against.

‘The catering industry will be closed. For the second time in 2020. (…) A drama that the government is trying to deal with with far-reaching support measures. Rightly so. Nevertheless, we have been wondering aloud for months where the support for the events sector remains. Because our glass is empty, right down to the bottom. For eight months at a time. (…) Every sense of perspective is taken away from us time and again ‘, the sector complains. “However, the events sector, just like the hospitality and travel sector, has been recognized as the most affected sector,” it continues.

Peanuts

Of 500 million euros that has been made available for the catering and events sector is a start, according to the event organizers, “but it is actually peanuts compared to the 777 million euros needed to keep our sector alive until December alone,” it sounds. ‘All together suddenly seems so far away. Because sectors are played off against each other and discriminated against. Together we beat the virus? Okay. But then emotional and financial support has to be provided. ‘

The sector is therefore again asking for recognition and support for the Five-Point Plan that was put on the table, but that, according to them, was not heard. In that plan, they ask for a unity of command, a renewed bank deal with a tailor-made support subsidy, extension of the bridging right and technical unemployment, a recovery plan for the sector and an ‘Eventmaster’ who, as conductor, gets all parties at the same pace.

‘Together we will beat the virus’, is the favorite one-liner of our policy makers. Let us now also prove this ‘together’ with a wave of solidarity and concrete measures. Support the hardest hit sectors, emotionally and financially. Support our healthcare workers, support the hospitality industry, support the aviation and travel sector and support the culture and events sector. And let us fight together against the unfairness of this corona crisis’, the appeal ends.

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