13 May 2005
BRUSSELS – Trains ground to a halt on Friday morning, two hours before the time originally announced for a strike.
SNCB had announced it would hold industrial action from 12 to 2pm, but in the end, staff at many stations stopped work in the morning.
Jos Digneffe, a spokesman for the CGSP union, told the news agency Belga the strike started early in response to two attacks on workers at Brussels Midi/Zuid station.
From the morning onwards, there were no trains running between Mons and Hal, between Mons and Charleroi or between Charleroi and Brussels.
Signalmen in Hainaut also stopped work, with some starting the strike from midnight.
Train drivers at Mons and train guards, mainly at Charleroi and La Louviere, were part of the strike.
Unionists are protesting about the new management contracts which the SNCB is about to sign with the government.
“These contracts currently contain employment objectives which are incompatible with the stated intention to increase the number of passengers and the quality of the services offered,” said a statement from the united unions.
“By obliging the different companies which make up SNCB to balance their budget in 2008, the government is demanding de facto that the companies reduce their staff by 4,000 people.”
The unionists are to meet with the SNCB management and the government on 17 May to talk about their grievances.
Friday also saw extensive strikes on buses in Wallonia.
In Hainaut, 90 drivers at Tournai refused to work.
In Mons, 15 out of 188 drivers joined the strike.
That left 40 percent of Hainaut’s TEC buses running and 60 percent of private buses continuing normally.
Buses in Liege were interrupted by industrial action from 7am to 7.45am.
In French-speaking Brabant, in Lasne and Nivelles, passengers found bus services very limited.
On Thursday, the Wallonian section of CGSP overwhelming rejected a proposal by the conciliator in the negotiations with TEC.
The proposal amounted to a salary rise of 0.6 percent, as well as bonuses for Saturday work and gift vouchers of EUR 35.
[Copyright Expatica 2005]
Subject: Belgian news