Wednesday's rail strike to go ahead

The 24-hour rail strike announced for Wednesday 5 October is to go ahead. A letter sent to the rail unions by the Federal Prime Minister Alexander De Croo (Flemish liberal) and the Federal Transport Minister Georges Gilkinet (Francophone green) failed to provide the reassurances sought by the unions in order to call off the strike. In the letter the Prime Minister and Transport the promised to give clarity regarding the financing of the country’s railways as quickly as possible.

The 24-hour strike will start at 10pm on Tuesday evening. The unions are demanding increased funding and more staff for the railways. In their letter Mr De Croo and Mr Gilkinet had promised that clarity would be given on the financing of Belgium’s state-owned railways during the coming years by the middle of this month. They wrote that they understand “the unease that has arisen due to the delay in providing budgetary clarity with relation to the management contract for the railways”.

They went on to promise that the clarity sought by the unions with regard to the financing of Belgium’s railways during the coming years will be provided in the federal budget that is due to be ready by 15 October. The management contracts between the rail service operator NMBS, the rail infrastructure company Infrabel and the Federal Government for the ten-year period from 2023 to 2032 will be one of the topics discussed during the budget talks and the aim is to have a agreement by 15 October. 

Not enough to avert a strike

Koen De Mey of the Christian trade union ACV Transcom told VRT News that the promises made in the letter are insufficient to avert a strike, as they only confirm what was already in the federal coalition agreement.

The agreement signed by the 7 parties that make up the federal coalition before the current federal government took office in autumn 2020 states that rail should once more form “the backbone” of our transport network. However, Mr De Mey says that it is unclear what financial means will be provided in order to achieve this.

"We have received a courtesy note, while what asked for were guarantees and we have not been given them”.

Meanwhile, Ludo Sempels of the socialist rail union ACOD Spoor says that he saw no firm commitments in the letter and as such no reason to call off the striker.

During the strike a minimum service will be provided. To find out if your train is running visit the rail company NMBS’s web site www.nmbs.be

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