As European leaders discuss the eurozone debt crisis in Brussels, Belgium’s three largest unions want their government to reconsider its approach to reducing the country’s deficit.
The three groups have come together, organising the largest general strike in almost 20 years.
Production ground to a standstill at the plants of car manufacturers Audi and Volvo on Monday, as workers said no to austerity measures, like increasing the retirement age, which are aimed at cutting government spending by 11.3 billion euros.
euronews correspondent in Brussels Charles Salamé said: “The cold temperature here hasn’t affected participation in the walkout. The strikers have sent their new government a clear signal of their dissatisfaction with its economic policy, a message also addressed to European leaders meeting here for the first time this year.”
Action is needed now to reverse what could become a trend, according to Philippe Van Mulder, Secretary General of FGTB, one of the unions behind the strike: “We think austerity measures are not part of the solution in this country but part of the problem, so we want to reverse this tendency.”
Transport has been the worst affected by the strike. The entire rail network has closed, there are no international trains and all flights have been cancelled at Charleroi Airport, which serves low-cost airlines.