Thousands take to Belgian streets for more purchasing power

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About 6,000 people took part in the trade union demonstrations in Antwerp on Monday to demand for higher purchasing power.

9 June 2008

ANTWERP - At least 6,000 people are taking part in the trade union demonstration in Antwerp on Monday.

The trade unions are holding demonstrations this entire week to demand that measures be taken to increase Belgians’ purchasing power and to reinforce the social security system.

The Christian, socialist and liberal unions have planned a week of manifestations starting in the provinces of Antwerp and Liège.  In Anwerp, the public transportation company De Lijn is holding strike action.  In Liège, the Walloon public transport company TEC is also striking.

Only about one fifth of the buses and trams are running in Antwerp province. In the city of Antwerp, about one bus and three trams are running. In Mechelen, only one in 10 buses is running. In Mol, there are no buses running at all.

The public transportation strike comes at a bad time: many school children are starting exams this week. The trade unions say that the schools were given plenty of advance warning that the strike was coming.

Over the last few days, negotiations have been underway between the trade unions and management of De Lijn to provide a minimal service during the week of trade union demonstrations. The talks apparently did not yield the desired result.

A number of other companies are also being affected by the call to demonstrate launched by the trade unions.

Production at the Opel car plant in Antwerp has been disrupted as some workers working the morning shift have joined in with the trade union demonstrations for more purchasing power. Less than half of the workers showed up at work.

They also wanted to draw attention to what they call the 'general malaise at General Motors'. On Sunday evening, only part of the night shift showed up at work.

Agfa-Gevaert and Kraft production has been largely brought to a standstill due to the trade union demonstrations.

Trade union demonstrations are also taking place Monday in the Walloon province of Liège. Other provinces in Flanders and Wallonia will take turns to demonstrate the rest of the week.

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