Union protests against European austerity plans, De Lijn heavily affected

The socialist trade union ABVV is organising actions against the European austerity plans in several cities on Monday. Public transport will be severely affected: just six out of 10 buses and trams of the Flemish public transport company De Lijn will run.

The union is protesting against the European austerity measures and their impact on Belgium. "If the next government just starts cutting spending, it will be very painful for workers, the population and families," ABVV president Thierry Bodson said.

Actions are planned in several cities, including Bruges, Brussels, Aalst, Genk, Namur, Mons and Liège. Leaflets will be distributed and protests organised.

The union has submitted a strike notice to De Lijn. Across Flanders, an average of 57 per cent of buses and trams will run on Monday. In East Flanders, just under half of buses and trams will run, and in Ghent only 30 per cent.

Walloon public transport company TEC is also expected to be disrupted. In Brussels, the STIB public transport system should be unaffected and trains should run as normal.

'Unacceptable' actions

Passengers' association TreinTramBus calls the strikes "unacceptable". "With all due respect for the right to strike and the concerns of the union, neither the passengers nor De Lijn decide on these cuts," it said in a statement. "They will bear the full brunt of this action, not the decision-makers in the European institutions."

The strikes are in response to expected cost-cutting due to Belgium's growing budget deficit. If the country continues to fail to meet the EU's Maastricht standards, which limit a country's deficit to 3 per cent of its GDP, it could face fines or even lose European funding. To rein in the deficit, the next government is expected to adopt severe austerity measures.



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