National demonstration in Brussels: Tens of thousands of protesters expected

National demonstration in Brussels: Tens of thousands of protesters expected
National demonstration in Brussels on 20 June 2022. Credit: Belga/Jonas Roosens

Several tens of thousands of protesters are expected to come to the Brussels North Station today (Friday, 16 December) at 10:00 for another demonstration demanding better purchasing power and measures to alleviate the cost of living crisis.

Belgium's three big trade unions have called on people to take to the streets again after what they argued was an insufficient proposal from the Federal Government to smooth wage negotiations between unions and employers.

"We still get a lot of questions and comments from people experiencing difficulties in paying for things," David Van Bellingen, spokesperson for the Christian trade union ACV-CSC, told Belga News Agency. The unions also demand a real ceiling on energy prices and want "the attacks on wage indexations to stop."

This is not the unions' first action for more purchasing power, as they organised various strike actions and national demonstrations over the course of the year – the latest on 9 November – with people taking to the streets calling for affordable energy and financial assistance in light of the various hardships affecting employees across the country.

Public transport disruptions

While the exact number of participants expected on Friday is difficult to estimate, the ACV-CSC union is counting on "several tens of thousands," but also pointed to the short "notice period." The liberal ACLVB-CGSLB union said it is counting on 1,500 members.

Traffic and public transport across Belgium – but especially in and around Brussels – are expected to be disrupted on Friday as metro, bus and tram operators in all regions in the country have confirmed that their services will be affected.

Railway company SNCB told The Brussels Times earlier this week that trains will be running as normal throughout the day, but that the stations may be busier than usual. Eight extra trains to and from the demonstration will also be running.

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Across the Brussels-Capital Region, STIB buses, trams and metros will be disrupted, and the company is asking passengers to find alternatives for their journeys. It will provide "information on the situation in real-time" on its website and social media channels, a company statement reads.

De Lijn also confirmed that the demonstration will disrupt its bus and tram services across Flanders, and published an adjusted timetable on its website on Wednesday evening. The route planner, both on the website and in the app, shows all rides that will run on Friday. Rides that are not running will not be shown.

In Wallonia, public transport operator TEC also expects disruptions to its network on Friday and will publish more precise information on the cancelled routes on its website when it becomes available.

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