Belgian unions call general strike over pension reform

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Belgian trade unions called for a general strike in the public sector on Thursday to protest the new government's pension reform plans, aimed at making it tougher to take early retirement.

After a 24-hour strike call from late Wednesday through Thursday by the SNCB railworkers' union, other public sector unions Monday joined the protest, urging a stop-work in public transport, postal services and the administration.

The one-day strike will throw up the first challenge faced by Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo's centre-left government, which took office December 6 pledging to cut spending to trim the country's debt and deficit -- respectively at 96.2 percent and 4.1 percent of GDP in 2010.

The Socialist party leader has pledged to maintain pension payments but due to the aging population is proposing to delay early retirement, except in some cases.

© 2011 AFP

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