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    STIB drivers continue protest despite new agreement

    © Belga

    STIB drivers walked off work for the fifth day in a row on Friday, saying a new deal between the company and transport unions did not respond to their demands for safer work conditions.

    At around 7:30 AM, the company’s bus network was still down some 10 lines and the tram network was again running at a reduced frequency, the company tweeted.

    On Thursday evening, STIB announced that a new agreement had been struck with unions which made new concessions to drivers, which were conditional on their immediate return to work.

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    The new deal gave staff the right to take additional days off, cut the number of split shifts to one every two weeks and gave drivers the option to travel in the off-limits parts of vehicles to begin their shifts, instead of having to go to the main depot.

    The agreement also said drivers would be given more time to “sanitise the cockpit” after a shift change and that they would no longer be required to wear a face mask if they were alone in the cockpit, a measure also extended to personnel manning ticket booths.

    In an online statement, STIB said that union representatives would bring the new deal to the drivers, who on Thursday indicated they would reject it.

    “The new management proposal has been unanimously rejected in all bus depots,” a driver identified Oliver told Bruzz. “I can assure you that we will not be working again [on Friday].”

    A central measure demanded by drivers since the start of the protest on Monday includes the imposition of passenger quotas on vehicles, in the image of Wallonia’s public transport company TEC.

    On Wednesday, 80% of the STIB’s bus drivers and 40% of tram drivers had put off work to join the protest, invoking their right of retreat from the workplace out of safety concerns, in a protest action led independently from unions.

    The protest came as STIB geared up to bring its network back to normal capacity and has brought travel disturbances on the first week of the reopening of shops on Belgium.

    Following the agreement, the drivers published an open letter which had gathered 500 signatures, demanding mobility authorities step in, the Belga news agency reports.

    “We don’t want to drive a bus or tram full to the brim and with zero [respect for] social-distancing,” the drivers wrote, adding that they were still spotting “too many” passengers without face masks and not enough enforcement.

    Gabriela Galindo
    The Brussels Times