Rail strike confirmed for 19 December as last chance meeting fails
Friday, 13 December 2019
The strike relates to demands made by three unions over eight months ago. Credit: Belga
A last-ditch attempt yesterday to avert a 24-hour rail strike by three unions starting on 18 December has failed. The strike will now go-ahead from 10:00 PM next Wednesday until 10:00 PM on Thursday.
Earlier, the Brussels Times reported that the strike was backed by the main socialist and liberal unions. They have since been joined by the smaller independent union SIC. The CSC/ACV, meanwhile, the large Christian union, had been reserving judgement while awaiting the outcome of yesterday’s meeting. Its intentions remained unclear at the time of publication.
The long-running dispute concerns union demands for a pay increase of 1.1%, the employment of more workers on permanent contracts, the same pay structure for permanent and fixed-contract workers, and a retention of the current 36-hour week.
In a statement issued at the end of the meeting, the socialist union CGSP/ACOD said, “the CGSP has remarked and deplores the refusal of management to recognise the legitimate demands of staff regarding employment, welfare at work and purchasing power. For eight months [we] have given social cooperation every chance, but today we have established that negotiations have failed in the face of the intransigence of management.”
HR Rail, which is the legal employer of railway personnel, issued a statement stating its belief that a solution to the dispute was still possible. “We are inviting the trade unions to carry on discussions in a constructive and creative manner,” HR Rail said. In the meantime, the organisation intends to go ahead with a poll of rail workers to find out who intends to work during the strike next week, so that a plan for a minimum service can be drawn up.
The rail authority SNCB, for its part, has warned of disruption across the network and is currently organising transport alternatives such as replacement bus services. The alternative service will be announced via the various SNCB channels (Twitter, Facebook, the SNCB National app) on Tuesday at the latest, to give commuters a chance to organise themselves.