Belgium national strike causing major transport disruption
Belgian trade unions have called a national strike today to voice their discontent over government plans to implement austerity measures and hike the pension age.
The strike, which commenced at midnight on 14 December and will continue through to midnight on 15 December, has been called by national unions to protest against new measures being taken by the Belgian Federal Government.
ISS Antwerp has reported that the unions represented in the National Joint Committee for the Port of Antwerp have called upon their members to participate. Severe disturbance to services in the Port of Antwerp, such as shortages of gangs and possible closure of the locks, are therefore anticipated. All Belgian ports are likely to be similarly affected, as will the Belgian railway and Belgian Customs.
Belgium's new federal government, which took office on Saturday, said it would raise the state pension age to 67 from 65, scrap a planned inflation-linked wage rise due next year and find savings in the public sector, including the health and social security budget.
The strike began late Sunday at airports and train stations. It has halted bus and metro services, as well as impact schools, businesses, factories and government offices throughout the country. A Brussels airport spokesperson said 600 flights have been cancelled, affecting 50,000 passengers.
Workers are protesting plans by the country's new center-right government to increase the pension age from 65 to 67, freeze wages and cut public services. The government says it must implement austerity measures to keep the budget deficit in line with European Union requirements. It also insists that businesses need more tax breaks to compete in the global market.
All Eurostar rail services from Brussels to the British capital London and trains to the French capital Paris, Amsterdam in the Netherlands and German city of Cologne are also completely cancelled today.