The national action and day of strike of the United Trade Union Front will cause many problems in Limburg today. Public transport, businesses, waste collection, education, healthcare, etc. Disruptions are expected in almost all sectors. Follow along here, where the obstacle is greatest.
There are several small strike actions in the business zone of Europark Lanaken. In Celanese there were pickets early this morning and at the Sappi paper mill there is still a strike at the moment (9.40am). “This is a joint action by the professional organizations to make it clear that our wages cannot just be affected like this. Among other things, we fight together to preserve the index, so that wages can somewhat follow inflation and purchasing power is preserved,” says Robert Skrzycki, who has been with the company for more than 40 years.
International connections to Thalys, Eurostar and TGV INOUI and Amsterdammer are running normally. However, there are disruptions for a number of ICE trains from the German railways, as well as for the night trains of the Austrian railways. Nightjet, which departs Vienna on Tuesday evening, does not go further than Cologne, after which travelers with ICE must continue on their way to Brussels. The same applies to the return train on Wednesday evening: it departs from Cologne to Vienna, so travelers from Brussels must first take ICE. This is what NMBS spokesman Dimitri Temmerman says. It still advises travelers to consult the schedule in advance.
There were noticeably fewer traffic jams on Flemish highways on Wednesday morning, despite public transport being severely hampered by the national day of action and strike. “Many clearly choose remote work on a strike day,” says Peter Bruyninckx from the Flemish Traffic Center.
The national day of action hampers public transport a lot. Still, the Flemish highways were much less busy on Wednesday morning. “There were structural traffic jams during the morning rush hour; but they were shorter than usual”, explains Bruyninckx. “The morning rush started normally, but at 6 o’clock it quickly became clear that there were fewer traffic jams than on a normal working day.”
Only a few De Lijn buses left the Lanaken depot today and the majority – reportedly – remained ‘in the stable’. “We cannot talk about a general strike here in Lanaken, because quite a few buses have been driven,” according to one of the employees present.
Fire barrels at the gates of Keramo-Steinzug in Hasselt Paalsteenstraat. “Like everyone else, we are striving for more purchasing power with this campaign,” said union secretary Alain Vanbrabant. “But at the same time, it should also send a clear signal to the management. This company has existed for more than 70 years, and in recent years the bosses here have been replaced and become managers. They take action, shake things up and possibly feel that their approach doesn’t work, they’re out of here and leaving the chaos behind. We want a healthy and humane policy again. It’s not just that 160 people quit their jobs. As long as those employees are not respected, new and more serious threats threaten actions here.”
The general action and strike day will not lead to major problems at Brussels airport on Wednesday morning. A large part of the flights had already been canceled in advance, but the flights that were planned are still taking place. Everything is going smoothly, says the airport.
To avoid long queues and delays, 60 percent of the flights at Brussels Airport had already been canceled on Wednesday as a precaution, which corresponds to a total of 223 flights. “All travelers have been informed by the airlines and flights have been rebooked,” said Ihsane Chioua Lekhli, spokesman for Brussels Airport. “It is therefore quite quiet. There is no chaos or long queues.” No further flights had to be canceled on Wednesday morning either.
The handling of the luggage is no problem either. “The handlers work with a smaller occupancy. That’s why we recommended that you only take hand luggage with you,” says Chioua Lekhli. “The baggage that was there could be handled.”
It is extremely quiet at Leuven train station on Wednesday morning. The trains are all running according to schedule, except for one (due to technical problems). For once there is even room to sit on the rush hour train to Brussels.
There are also virtually no commuters at the bus station, our reporter on the spot also sees few buses running.
Due to the strike, there is no beer production at AB InBev in Leuven today. The unions closed all entrances, no one was allowed into both the depot and the main entrance to the brewery. “The management knew it, and there is really no one at work. The teams that have to start later today will also not be allowed access.
A strike was also called at the Scandinavian Tobacco Group in Lummen this morning. “Today we mainly face the chaos in our company,” said ACV activist Lorena, who has worked for the company as a technician for five years. “The staff do not get the respect they deserve, they provide almost no training to the employees, and the communication is anything but. Of course, we are also here for more financial clarity. We just want to work in a comfortable environment and be able to pay our invoices. We don’t ask that much.”
At the front door of Hasselt Jessa Hospital only red coats of BBTKers. “We are also not stepping in against the hospital itself, but against the ideas from the government, which now also wants to tinker with automatic wage indexation. People should really refrain from that. We also demand free wage negotiations,” says secretary Alex Nijs.
For the patients, the discomfort was quite limited. Only the imaging department, where the staff wanted a better status, continued to function with difficulty.
According to Egbert Lachaert, chairman of Open VLD, the attackers are wrong about the enemy. “We are all in misery because of rising prices,” he said on Wednesday The morning on Radio 1. “The strike day was announced a long time ago, but in the meantime the government has drawn up a basic tariff. You destroy prosperity and you are not going to achieve solutions by stopping people who want to work, which is happening in Ghent. The worst , you can do now is to strike and go to war against each other. I think there is someone in the Kremlin laughing in their sleeves.”
The company Profel in Overpelt is also running a campaign. Flyers are handed out at the entrance. The unions are talking about a successful campaign aimed at raising awareness. “We do not force anyone to stop working. In these difficult times, we do not want to take anyone’s salary. But we want to make it clear why the unions are not going to work,” reads the entrance to the company. .
There is a strange kind of calm at Hasselt station. Whoever orders it turns out to be well informed. “I go to school,” says Stephanie Abry, who is on Syntra-PXL. “My bus usually comes on time, and it’s also announced like this on the information boards. I might be quite alone at school because there are many who have to stay home. But I have to anyway. In the end it’s about half day, and I also usually go back home and enjoy a hot chocolate in the meantime.”
“I cannot emphasize enough that I have great understanding of the concerns of our employees,” said Flemish Labor Minister Jo Brouns (CD&V) on Wednesday in response to the national action and strike day. “Still, I don’t think a strike is the right answer to today’s energy crisis.” Brouns points out that the various governments certainly have an eye on purchasing power, in sectors where wages are indexed once a year, a historically high indexation of more than 10 percent follows in January, the VAT reduction on energy is maintained and there are, among other things, A basic package with energy support follows for the families.
Brouns also says he is not in favor of free wage negotiations: “after all, it means abolishing our system of automatic indexation, and I can’t see that.” But he is in favor of the tax reform of his CD&V colleague, Federal Finance Minister Vincent Van Peteghem. “I am convinced that such a reform will help more people to find work, which will improve purchasing power and the employment rate. I myself believe in a story about building bridges,’ says the minister. “I already want to build bridges myself with regard to employees, companies, job seekers or social partners or simply everyone who has good intentions for our country’s future. I certainly hope that the trade unions will continue to cooperate constructively in devising solutions,’ concludes Brouns.
The unions are also on strike at Marlux in Dellestraat in Heusden-Zolder. “For more understanding”, says union representative ACV David Serneels. “I have worked here for 24 years. What we are experiencing today is unprecedented. We receive reports from especially young employees who cannot cope financially. Older employees often have some reserves. But that is not the point either, that we must use our savings to be able to pay our basic needs such as electricity and gas.” The strike is peaceful.There is an atmosphere of hope and collegiality at the strike.
There is also no work at Tenneco in Sint-Truiden today. “With this national day of action, we want to put pressure on the government so that ordinary workers can return to a normal life without having to worry about paying their basic utility bills,” said Kristof Claes, head of ACLVB Tenneco-Monroe. “First there was the corona crisis and everything was produced in China, and now there is the war in Ukraine. People are getting tired of this. A year ago, a person from a family with two working parents had a side job to do something extra. can afford it, now during this period you have to do a side job to be able to pay the bills.”
“The prices of electricity have tripled, and gas has quadrupled. In other words: an average monthly price of gas and electricity has risen from 222 euros/month to 946 euros/month in a year. After all, this is not normal,” continues Claes further. “There must be measures to make these energy prices more affordable. That is why we also strive to maintain automatic wage indexation, it is the only wage increase that the workers have, while everything is becoming more expensive, and we also want the Wage Standards Act of 1996 to be reformed. This wage standards law creates a ceiling in wage negotiations per sector to be competitive with neighboring countries, but our wages have increased on average 4 percent less than neighboring countries, while productivity is more than 10 percent higher than France, the Netherlands and Germany. This cannot be the point, and it is high time to take action, because in the first quarter of next year there will be a lot of bankruptcies for us, because for the employer these energy costs are also unbearable, so I will not talk about the purchase of materials whose prices have increased, which the producers then pass it on to their customers, and then we live in a vicious circle where everything becomes more expensive and where urgent action must be taken.”