Rail workers mount snow-bound Brussels jobs protest

18th December 2009, Comments 0 comments

Hundreds of rail workers marched through heavy Brussels snow on Thursday and threatened a strike in protest at 20 years of free market liberalisation in the rail industry.

BRUSSELS - The action saw up to 300 demonstrators target a gathering of European transport ministers at EU headquarters themselves hit by a staff strike in defence of a controversial pay rise.

Guy Greivelding, the head of the railway section of the European Transport Workers Federation (ETF), said the protest was a precursor to a European strike planned for April next year.

"Over the last 20 years, liberalisation throughout the European rail industry has cost around one million jobs," Luxembourg-based Greivelding said.

"We want Europe's political leaders to reverse (free market) policies that destroy the railway system, protecting passengers and cargo in equal measure.

"Today's action is a warning, we will organise large-scale European action in April accompanied by a strike movement," he said of the demonstration that passed off without incident.

A statement from the ETF railed against "ongoing liberalisation, privatisation and fragmentation" of the sector, saying a culture of contracting out services had destroyed working conditions.

It accused countries of failing to invest in rail infrastructure and implementing policies which hindered rail's ability to compete effectively with other modes of cargo and passenger transport.

Unions said some 2,000 demonstrators gathered mainly from Belgium, France and Luxembourg at Brussels' main south station, with police saying several hundred completed the march to the EU headquarters.


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