Strikes bring Flemish shipping traffic to a standstill

Shipping traffic to and from ports in Flanders has been largely at a standstill since Monday afternoon due to strikes, the Maritime and Coastal Services Agency (MDK) reports. Unions are protesting against the reform of the Flemish civil service statute.

According to the MDK, the Flemish port services in Vlissingen, the Netherlands, stopped work at around 15.00 on Monday, following a call from its union. As a result, Flemish pilots can no longer board ships to escort them to and from ports.

Earlier on Monday, staff at several locks in Flanders had already walked out. Unions protested at the headquarters of the Flemish public employment service VDAB in Brussels at around 13.00, and protests took place in other cities including Ghent.

As a result of the various actions, shipping to and from Flemish ports has been largely at a standstill since midday. Inland waterways have also been disrupted.

The reason for the strike is negotiations on a new statute for Flemish government employees. The unions say they have been negotiating for four years, but the final text contains errors and shows that certain agreements have not been respected.

"If there are still ambiguities about the agreements made, they need to be clarified," said Vincent Verbeecke, spokesperson for Flemish Interior minister Gwendolyn Rutten. "The minister, on behalf of the Flemish government, is open to discussion."



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