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    Rail unions announce 24-hour strike for 19 December

    © Michael Day/Flickr Commons

    Two of the three unions representing railway workers have filed an intention to strike for 24 hours on 19 December. A third union is waiting for the outcome of a meeting with HR Rail, the legal employer of rail workers.

    The strike is over demands made by all three unions eight months ago. Then, a social plan put forward by HR Rail was rejected by unions, who made a counter-proposal involving a pay increase of 1.1% to match that agreed for the private sector; the employment of more permanent workers; the same pay structure for permanent and fixed-contract workers; and a commitment to maintain the current 36-hour week.

    The two sides met on Monday to try to resolve the dispute, following the unions’ announcement that they were implementing the so-called “alarm bell” procedure – the first step in launching a legal strike action. On Tuesday, the socialist union ACOD/CGSP took the latest compromise proposals to its membership, who rejected it outright.

    For the past eight months we have given social dialogue every chance, but today we have to conclude that the negotiations have been unsuccessful,” the union said in a communique posted on their website. And they accused the management of “obduracy”. “They remain deaf to the expectations of their staff and of passengers.”

    The union then filed its intention to strike, together with the liberal union VSOA/SLFP. As is customary, the strike will begin at 22.00 on Wednesday 18 December and end at the same time on Thursday 19 December.

    The industry’s third union, the Christian union CSC/ACV, prefers to wait for the outcome of the meeting that will be held in response to the strike notice. “We have another plan of action,” said union representative Luc Piens.

    How far the strike will extend is not for the time being clear, especially if ACV/CSC declines to join. In the meantime, HR Rail will poll all rail workers to ask if they intend to work or not, so that an effort can be made to ensure a minimum service. But even if only two unions strike, rail passengers hardly need to be told, disruption in the form of delays and cancellations can be expected across the whole network.

    Alan Hope
    The Brussels Times