The rail strike announced for tomorrow and Friday is the first occasion for the introduction of the minimum service proposed by the rail authority SNCB/NMBS, which originally led to the dispute in the first place. The minimum service is seen by supporters as a way to guarantee at least some service to passengers during long-lasting strikes, which would cover the 24-hour stoppage announced by rail unions at the end of this week – starting at 2200 on Thursday and ending at 2200 on Friday.
According to an undisclosed poll taken on Monday of workers for the rail authority SNCB and the rail infrastructure company Infrabel, a minimum service will be implemented. According to an initial analysis, priority will be given to IC trains – trains the main axes from city to city, such as Brussels-Mechelen-Antwerp or Ostend-Eupen – rather than stop trains and commuter trains serving smaller stations.
A previous threat which would have seen the end of the month taken up by 12 days of strikes by smaller rail unions was stricken down in court for procedural reasons. The coming weekend is the only threat left. But since the SNCB is implementing its minimum service for the first time, and the minimum service is the very root of the dispute, it’s hard to see how any rapprochement could be found.
The unions see the minimum service as an attack on the basic right to strike. In the meantime, they have taken the case to the constitutional court.
Train users are advised to use the rail website (www.belgianrail.be/nl: EN available but less likely to be updated) or app, or follow the Twitter feed (committer/SNCB), for real-time information on the situation.