Belgium cancels all flights as workers stage national strike

Author: 
Reuters
ID: 
1550051671588214800
Wed, 2019-02-13 09:50

BRUSSELS: Belgian airports canceled almost all flights on
Wednesday due to a national strike over pay and working conditions
that halted activity at ports, hit public transport and led to
blockades outside factories.

Belgian air traffic control body Skeyes shut Belgian airspace
for 24 hours from 10 p.m. (2100 GMT) on Tuesday because it could
not guarantee enough staff would turn up.

Brussels Airport, the country’s busiest hub, said it had
planned to handle 591 passenger and cargo departures and arrivals
and that the strike would hit some 60,000 travelers.

Just one passenger flight, to Moscow, would depart late on
Wednesday, with a few late arrivals and some cargo flights.

National rail operator SNCB said about half of its train
services were running. High-speed Thalys, running to Amsterdam and
Paris, said it should be running normal services, though catering
might not be available on all trains. Some Eurostar trains to
London were canceled due to maintenance.

Dock workers were not loading or unloading ships in the port of
Antwerp. Blockades stopped work at factories across the
country.

Brussels’ metro, tram and bus operator ran just a handful of
lines. The situation was the same in the rest of the country.

Unions are calling for wage increases, an improved work-life
balance and better pensions in talks with employers. Some see the
strike as political action against the center-right federal
government ahead of a parliamentary election.

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel said talks needed to
resume by Thursday and added that companies had created 219,000
jobs in the past four years thanks to the government’s
policies.

Belgium’s Central Council of the Economy, composed of worker,
employer and consumer representatives, has advised that the maximum
pay hike for 2019 and 2020 should be 0.8 percent. Michel’s office
said that, including wage indexation, this meant an effective pay
increase of up to 4.6 percent.

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Source: FS – All-News-Economy
Belgium cancels all flights as workers stage national strike