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    Train strike maintained for Saturday after talks fail

    © Belga

    A train strike planned for Saturday 27 July has been maintained following the failure of talks between staff and management at HR Rail and SNCB, the Syndicat indépendant des cheminots (SIC) indicated on Tuesday.

    “Our demand is simple: 15% of holidays guaranteed,” SIC Spokesman Pascal Dumont said after the meeting, held on Tuesday. “We’re still hoping for a reaction from HR Rail and the SNCB between now and Saturday.”

    The Société Nationale des Chemins de Fer Belges (SNCB) confirmed that train traffic could be severely disrupted on Saturday. “To limit any inconvenience as best as we can, the SNCB will organise an alternative service based on the word from the train conductors regarding their intention to work on Saturday next,” SNCB Spokeswoman Elisa Roux said.

    The SIC argues that the proposals made by management are not enough. They have been submitted to the trade union delegates and rejected, Dumont said. The union demands 15% guaranteed holidays. “These holidays have to be granted and guaranteed. They have been too often refused, and even cancelled at the last minute,” the SIC spokesman stressed, adding that “the dialogue has been constructive, but our demands have not been respected.”

    For its part, the SNCB said it recognised that summer was not an easy period for its staff. “Like many other companies, the SNCB keeps functioning fully,” Elisa Roux said. “It’s true there are fewer commuters, so fewer P trains at peak hours, but many travellers count on the train to go to the Coast, to festivals or other tourist destinations. That’s why the number of trains for these destinations needs to be increased, so it’s not easy for our train conductors to go on vacation during the summer holidays.”

    “The SNCB is aware of that and adds additional conductors to lighten the intensity of the work as best it can, while continuing to recruit so as to be able to grant more holidays and part-time work over the next few months and during the next holiday period,” Roux said. “The SNCB will continue to focus its efforts on recruiting conductors over the next few years.”

    The SNCB said it strongly deplored the stalemate and called on the conductors to withdraw their strike notice in spite of everything.

    The strike is scheduled to last from 03.00 a.m. on Saturday to 03.00 a.m. on Sunday morning, according to the notice.

    Oscar Schneider

    The Brussels Times