An all-out strike by railway workers has brought train travel to a halt for Belgians, and many Europeans too. The 24-hour stoppage over pay and conditions began at 10pm last night and has been widely observed by staff at the national train company, the SNCB. Eurostar and other international services have been affected.
“We are aware of the inconvenience this is causing passengers,” said union chief Gerard Gelmini. “But when you come up against a brick wall you have to use the ultimate weapon which is to go on strike.”
The action, the biggest of its kind in three years, follows the breakdown of talks with the SNCB.
“We must come to an agreement whatever the cost,” said Jannie Haek from the SNCB. “We have to find a balance and I don’t think it’s in anyone’s interest to take the passengers hostage. We have to avoid that.”
Within 15 minutes of the start of the action, the entire network had come to a halt, leaving passengers stranded.
The walkout has reopened the debate on a minimum public service, an idea unions oppose but many business leaders and travellers support.