Public transport to be hit again by another national strike

Public transport to be hit again by another national strike
A protestant with a flag at Antwerp Central railway station during action on 31 May. Credit: Belga/ DIRK WAEM

Just three weeks after public transport in Belgium ground to a halt as a result of a national strike on 31 May, another strike is planned with unions once again calling on the Government to protect people's purchasing power.

The Brussels public transport operator STIB confirmed on Monday afternoon that the strike on 20 June, announced by the socialist trade union BBTK last week, will cause serious disruption to its network.

The exact impact is not clear yet, as it is currently impossible to know the staff's participation in the action. The demonstration in the city centre will also see several lines being blocked or diverted, especially trams and buses.

"STIB advises its travellers to provide alternative public transport on that day and apologises for the inconvenience," a statement from the company read. "We will do everything in our power to serve as wide an area as possible and to enable students to reach their schools for the exams."

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As always, STIB will inform the public in real-time about the situation on the network starting at 06:00 on its social media platforms (Facebook and Twitter) and on its website.

Public transport operator De Lijn told The Brussels Times it is taking stock of who will and will not participate, and will draw up the adjusted timetable based on that information. Trains operated by SNCB are expected to go ahead as scheduled, as no strike notice has been filed for the company.

Sector-wide struggle

In a press release last week, BBTK said that in light of prices continuing to skyrocket, which is putting Belgian workers' purchasing power in danger, it is once again taking to the streets.

In both April and May, unions and their members organised strike actions, calling on the Government for better protections to deal with the cost of living crisis, strengthen pension systems, boost public sector investment and improve social consultations between trade unions and politicians.

"Today we are in a crisis. And in a crisis, we have to act fast. There are ways to maintain and even increase purchasing power," the statement read.

Conflicted opinion on efforts made

The previous strike action, which affected much of Belgium’s transport and schools, was received with criticism both by businesses and the Government, which has yet to show signs of bowing to union demands.

Additionally, Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said that Belgium's purchasing power compensation is automatic, unlike in other countries, meaning that Belgium already does more than most to protect workers.

Unions, meanwhile, have called on additional measures to keep households' bills affordable, including changing the law to ensure wages can be raised fairly, a permanent VAT reduction to 6% for electricity and natural gas, an expansion of the target group for social rate relief, and wage equality between women and men, among others.

The strike demonstration is expected to depart from the North train station in Brussels at 11:00 on Monday 20 June.

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