- Title: BELGIUM-STRIKE Belgium national strike paralyses air and railroad traffic
- Date: 15th December 2014
- Summary: BRUSSELS, BELGIUM (DECEMBER 15, 2014) (REUTERS) LOG FIRE ON ROAD TO BLOCK BUSES FROM ARRIVING AT MAIN RAILWAY STATION/ UNION MEMBER STANDING NEXT TO FIRE WOOD BURNING IN FIRE
- Embargoed: 30th December 2014 12:00
- Location: Belgium
- Country: Belgium
- Topics: General
- Reuters ID: LVA8AIEMOEU8GOGSLCCT8EPJ92HQ
- Story Text: Air and railroad traffic came to a stand-still in Belgium on Monday (December 15) as unions held a nation-wide strike in a protest over the government's planned pension reform and budget cuts.
Belgium Christian union ACV-Transcom joined fellow trade union ACOD in calling on air traffic controllers to follow the example of ground staff and flight personnel and not work at airports on the day of protest.
At Brussels' international airport in Zaventem not a single flight was coming in or taking off since Sunday night 2100 GMT when the strike began.
"Since yesterday 10 pm and until today 10 pm we have no flights above Belgium. It means for Brussels airport that 600 flights are cancelled. The impact is huge, because we expected today 50,000 passengers and today they cannot fly," said Florence Muls, the communication manager of the airport.
The centre-right government of Prime Minister Charles Michel, which took office in mid-October, plans to raise the retirement age and skip a scheduled inflation-linked wage increase that was due in 2015.
"The new government wants to realise a few ideas, so called one-liners, but on the other hand they don't do anything about the fact that big companies organise certain structures in Luxembourg, that big families make agreements with the tax authorities: a company can be sold for billions while not paying a single penny of tax, all cost cuts have to come on the back of the people, that is not possible anymore," said Luc Piens, general director at ACV-TRANSCOM, as he and other union members blocked the road leading to Brussels South railway station .
Apart from cutting all national train links, the strike also hit international train services Eurostar and Thalys.
Eurostar, which operates high-speed rail services between Brussels and London, said all trains to Brussels terminated in Lille, France. Thalys said it too had cancelled most trains to Germany, France and the Netherlands.
While most commuters had changed their travel plans in participation of the strike, some were still taken by surprise.
"I didn't know there was a strike today, I did not check it. I know there is a wave of strikes going on in Belgium at the moment, but I did not check it when I left France yesterday. I am a bit surprised, obviously, but, in France it is also very common to have strikes, so I am only slightly surprised," said Marie Burriere, a scientific researcher who had hoped to travel by train from France to her work in Leuven.
Belgium needs to keep its public sector deficit below 3 percent of annual output this year and next and is already at risk of EU disciplinary proceedings over its debt of around 100 percent of gross domestic product (GDP).
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