The retail sector seems to have been hardly affected by the strikes, explains Comeos (federation for the retail and services sectors) in a press release on Monday. “But our member businesses are suffering at the hands of people mostly unrelated to the business, people who are preventing customers from going into stores and personnel from coming in for work,” accused Comeos, adding that this situation is “unacceptable.” During 3 recent regional strikes, the federation had about 5% of retail workers on strike in Flanders and 20% in Wallonia and Brussels. “Very few stores had to shut their doors for lack of personnel,” discloses Dominique Michel, Comeos CEO. “However, picket lines stopping workers and customers getting into shopping malls, high streets, and stores, forced these stores to stay shut. We expect the same thing will happen today with the nationwide strike.”
Comeos argues that though it respects the right to strike, picket lines are not acceptable. “When this happens, businesses where only 3 or 4 employees are striking have to shut down anyway. We were also horrified that police forces blocked off certain roads to avoid problems. They would be better used removing picket lines. By not asking them to clear the access roads, authorities are in effect supporting strikers who illegally block off roundabouts. On any other day, anyone trying to block off a roundabout would be arrested immediately. Obviously the law does not apply when there is a strike. We hope this will not be the case again on Monday and that the law will indeed apply,” concludes M. Michel.