Strike halts most train service in southern Belgium
Train services virtually ground to halt across southern Belgium on Thursday as rail workers launched a strike to protest against a reduction in overtime pay, officials said.
The strike also caused minor delays on international train lines from Brussels to Paris, Amsterdam and Cologne.
“In Wallonia, movement has almost stopped, apart from a few trains,” said Nathalie Pierard, spokeswoman for the state-run railways SNCB, referring to the southern French-speaking region of Belgium.
Thalys trains from Brussels to Paris, Amsterdam and the German hub of Cologne were running but with a 15-minute delay, according to the firm’s website.
The Eurostar train to London was running normally and trains in the northern Dutch-speaking region of Flanders were broadly running to schedule.
The CGSP rail union said the strike had been called in response to plans by management to reduce compensation for overtime for the country’s 34,000 rail workers.
The strike that began at 10 pm (2000 GMT) Wednesday has been extended until Friday, after union talks with management broke up without agreement, the Belga news agency reported. New talks are scheduled Friday at 11:30 am.
Growing worker discontent in Belgium comes amid mounting labour unrest in neighbouring France where striking workers disrupted oil refineries and nuclear power stations and halted planes and trains on Thursday.
On Tuesday, Belgian police fired water cannon at protesters on the margins of a demonstration in Brussels against the government’s labour reform plans, leaving 10 people injured.
Some 60,000 people took part in the rally, which was supposed to kick off months of planned demonstrations and national strikes led by trade unions against the centre-right government’s austerity policies.