Marchers are expected to travel from across the continent to assemble in the EU capital for one of the largest demonstrations in recent years. Solidarity protests are also planned in numerous member states, including Greece, Ireland, Italy, Latvia and Poland.
Spain, meanwhile, is experiencing its first general strike since 2002 as the country's main unions - the UGT and CCOO - march against austerity measures introduced by José Luis Zapatero's socialist government. The unions previously made threats of a general strike in May 2010 as talks with the government over labour reform remained deadlocked (EurActiv 31/05/10).
Austerity budgets: too far, too soon?
The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), the main force behind the Brussels march, hopes that by sending a strong message it can prompt a rethink on austerity programmes it views as draconian.
In a 28 September interview with EurActiv, ETUC Secretary-General John Monks explained that unions believe both national governments and EU leaders went too far, and too soon, panicking at the onset of the Greek crisis and adopting austerity measures which have led to a "real risk" of a double-dip recession.
Conny Reuter, president of the Social Platform, a network of European social NGOs, shares the unions' view, and before leaving to join today's Brussels march told EurActiv that the over-the-top budgets have led to a dangerous slashing of social spending across the EU, giving the example of a 30% cut in teachers' salaries in Latvia.
There are other choices, say social NGOs
What national governments and EU lawmakers have failed to understand, he argued, is that in a time of crisis social needs are higher, and "we have to mobilise to highlight the fact that there are other choices".
These alternative choices, according to Reuter, could include other potential sources of income to bolster weakened budgets, such as the much-discussed financial transactions tax (FTT), which would impose levies on large transactions.
Europe 2020 – high road or low road?
The Brussels strike is hoping to be particularly influential on EU policy. ETUC and the Social Platform believe the European Commission's 'Europe 2020' strategy, which will govern Brussels' economic strategy for the coming decade, could go one of two directions.
Either it can choose the "high road", emphasising the Commission's goals of sustainable, green growth, or it can take the "low road", adhering rigidly to a "vigorous application" of the Stability and Growth Pact.
The strikes and marches, said Reuter, are intended to send a clear message to EU leaders that they are making the wrong choice.