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    STIB drivers protest for fourth consecutive day

    On Wednesday, 80% of bus drivers and 40% of tram drivers were out protesting. STIB has said that the drivers' demands are not backed by unions. © Belga

    Brussels’ public transport network is facing disruptions for the fourth day in a row on Thursday as drivers continue to drop work until their demands for safer working conditions are met.

    At around 8:20 AM STIB warned on Twitter that its bus and tram network was running at reduced capacity but that all metro lines were running normally.

    STIB said all tram lines were circulating but with a reduced frequency and that around a dozen bus lines were not circulating at all.

    Since the start of the protest movement on Monday, the company’s bus network has been the hardest hit, with the drivers’ action effectively pulling whole lines out of circulation.

    The drivers have been protesting insufficient safeguards in the workplace as the company works to bring the network’s capacity back to normal, having adjusted frequencies during the lockdown.

    On Wednesday, 80% of the company’s bus drivers and 40% of tram drivers were out, according to Bruzz, in an effort to pressure management to agree to their demands, which include having a cap put on the maximum number of passengers allowed to board a vehicle.

    While an employee of the company told the media on Monday that buses were not properly cleaned between shifts, STIB spokesperson Françoise Ledune denied that claim, saying that drivers were also given personal disinfecting kits.

    Ledune told The Brussels Times on Monday that the company had put the necessary safety measures in place and that the drivers’ demands were not backed by their unions, with whom they had reached an agreement on the scaling back up of services.

    She also said that limiting the number of passengers was not possible, since it depends on changing factors such as the type of vehicle or passenger behaviour, but that social-distancing stickers and audio messages constantly reminded passengers to keep their distance onboard.

    An employee joining the protest movement told Bruzz that the drivers were seizing on their right of withdrawal from the workplace, which, in Belgian law, allows staff to drop work if they deem working conditions present a “grave and imminent danger,” also protecting them from being dismissed or otherwise penalised.

    The CGSP union’s transport division could not be reached for a request for comment.

    Gabriela Galindo
    The Brussels Times