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Wallonia bus strike rumbles on

Published on 27/05/2005

27 May 2005

BRUSSELS – Negotiations between striking bus drivers in Wallonia and management have reached deadlock, it was reported on Friday.

News agency Belga reported that talks have failed to avert fresh strikes on Friday and that the arbitrators called in to broker a deal have resigned.

After a meeting on Thursday between TEC unionists and the company’s bosses, the Walloon Regional Society of Transport (SRWT) – which funds TEC – said the two parties agreed that further arbitration was needed.

“There is consensus that an arbitrator be quickly appointed,” said general administrator Jean-Marc Vandenbroucke.

It is up to Employment Minister Freya Van den Bossche whether another arbitrator will be designated. She told parliament on Thursday that she would meet all the parties involved in the dispute to see whether the conditions for a new conciliator were met.

If the dispute does merit arbitration, she will immediately select someone, she pledged.

The minister defended previous arbitrators, stating that they had been irresponsibly blamed for the failure of the parties to resolve their differences.

A previous arbitrator, Jean-Marie Fafchamps, angered the socialist union CGSP when he stated in a letter to Van den Bossche that he felt the union was only taking part in arbitration for appearance’s sake.

The letter, addressed 21 April, mistakenly ended up with the CGSP.

In it, Fafchamps also accused the union of intending to disregard the SRWT, hoping its strike would bring in the involvement of the Walloon government.

On Thursday, the Walloon minister-president Jean-Claude Van Cauwenberge backed the ability of SRWT’s Phlypo to do the job.

Van Cauwenberge added that giving SRWT more funding to meet higher driver salaries was out of the question. He said following new rules on awarding funding to Organisms with a Public Interest (OIP), some 2 percent should have been given to SRWT.

“It finally received 3 percent,” he said. “It shouldn’t be thought that by putting pressure on the Walloon government, its budgetary norms will be disregarded. That would be mismanagement to carry on like that.”

Strikes are expected throughout the TEC network on Friday and over the weekend. In Charleroi, Liege and Mons, buses were at a complete standstill as early as Thursday.

A large demonstration by drivers was also planned in Namur on Friday.

[Copyright Expatica 2005]

Subject: Belgian news