A 24-hour general strike is underway in Belgium, with the country’s transportation networks including its ports, coming to a standstill.
Belgium’s ports have been blockaded because of the industrial action against austerity, with dock workers amongst those frustrated by government proposals to scrap a cost-of-living wage rise next year.
At Europe’s third busiest port, the Port of Antwerp, no operations are taking place and 50 ships are waiting to be dealt with at the time of writing.
According to spokesperson Annik Dirkx, the backlog will take at least 24 hours to clear since the chain of operations including handling, loading, loading and involving trucks, barges and trains still need to be completed.
She said: “Let’s hope everything will be cleared within 48 hours but it will be very difficult to say. The most certain thing I can say is that it will take at least 24 hours.”
Further strikes have not yet been planned but are likely to depend on whether the unions and the government can reach an agreement.
Dirkx added: “Let’s hope that it will end today and that unions and political parties will find a way to communicate, speak with each other and together about a more sustainable solution to this problem.”
Unions are unhappy with Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel’s plans to save €11bn (US$13.7) in the next five years by using a set of policies which include public sector cutbacks and plans to increase the retirement age.