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Strikes bring public transport in Belgium to standstill


Belgium

Strikes bring public transport in Belgium to standstill

Train and bus services ground to a halt in Belgium on Monday after workers walked out in protest over government austerity measures.

There’s anger at pension and social security reforms planned by Belgium’s new centre-right government, particularly plans to scrap the usually automatic cost-of-living pay rise next year.

Alain Onkelinx, from the trade union CGSP said he was pleased with how the day had gone. “It went really well, even better than our expectations because we wanted to block a maximum number of council administrative resources and up until now, no one has gone inside the council administration.”

Not everyone supports the strikes however. One Brussels resident said: “they are economically freezing the country, for five weeks straight, in addition to other strikes organized by the SNCB (Societe Natioanle des Chemins de fer Belges) on Thursday. The police threaten to block us on Thursday and Friday the 12th. Another general strike on the 15th. They are really going to bring the country down to zero.”

The movement began in November with a 100,000 people marching through Brussels. Regional strikes are being held every Monday and a nationwide day of action is planned on December 15.

The Belgian government says the cuts are needed to make the country more competitive.

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