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Disruption expected today as unions hold 24-hour strike

Bruxelles-Chapelle. Trains may not stop. © karmakolle/Wikimedia

Train users can expect some disruption today, as rail workers’ unions join in a national strike lasting 24 hours.

The disruption to rail services actually started at 10:00 PM yesterday, as is customary, and will continue until 10:00 PM tonight.

However according to the rail authority SNCB, more than half of all trains will run today, and users are advised to seek real-time information from social media or the SNCB app.

The strike comes as a result of the breakdown of talks between unions and employers to decide on the pay rises workers can expect over the next two years.

According to the Central Council for the Economy, the limit for this two-year-period is 0.4% on top of the annual index. Unions are not willing to accept this.

Unions have called on members to strike, but to remain home as far as possible, given the Covid-19 measures in force. Normally such an issue would call for large gatherings.

Specifically for the railways, the SNCB declares that two out of three IC (inter-city) train will run; two out of three S and L trains will run; most P trains will not run; trains to the coast will be limited in number, and some replacement bus services will not operate.

In addition, trains will not be stopping at some smaller stations, such as Bruxelles-Chapelle, Buda and Aarsele.

In Flanders and Brussels, public transport authority De Lijn expects ‘significant disruption’ to services on Monday. A spokesperson said the problems would vary from region to region and from service to service, and was difficult to foresee. Again, users are advised to turn to online and app channels.

The Brussels transport authority STIB also forecasts major disruption and advised users to find alternative means of transport if at all possible.

Elsewhere, the strike will be joined by workers in the metal and textiles sectors, with around 400 businesses remaining shuttered. Some large businesses will remain closed, including Audi in Forest, Coca Cola in Antwerp, Volvo Trucks in Ghent and bis-builder Van Hool in Lier.

Some supermarket staff have decided to strike, but there will be no picket-lines thanks to coronavirus rules, so most shops should remain open. There will however be pickets at Brucargo in Zaventem.

Some employees of the Pfizer vaccine plant in Puurs will strike, but workers at BPost have said they will not, as have workers at the country’s vaccination centres.

Alan Hope
The Brussels Times