A nationwide strike over the cost of living increases traffic fast through much of Belgium and affects companies.
A nationwide strike over a rise in the cost of living caused by runaway inflation and massive energy bill increases related to the war in Ukraine has blocked traffic through much of Belgium and businesses were affected on Wednesday.
Major unions have joined forces to call for wage increases as severe transport disruptions affect the country of 11.5 million people, where inflation has reached its highest level since the mid-1970s.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has sent oil and natural gas prices soaring as countries reject Russia’s supply cuts and energy is wreaking havoc on the market. The price hike is fueling global inflation, while boosting the profits of energy companies.
Unions are adamant that workers must be shielded from the effects of price increases that have raised energy and food prices and pushed many people to the brink of poverty.
“Electricity, gas and food prices have skyrocketed in the past year. Because of the war but also because companies seize the opportunity to increase profits even more,” said the union ACV of the Christian Democratic Party.
“Conversely, wages are not allowed to rise for many years… This has to stop. We need to cap gas and electricity prices,” it added.
Most trains and urban public transport have been reduced to a minimum, increasing rush hour traffic and keeping many people from getting to their workplaces.
At Brussels airport, 60% of flights were cancelled, while Charleroi airport was closed.
In Brussels, the capital city with most of the European Union’s institutions, only one metro line is operational, with bus and tram lines also disrupted.
The union CSC said staff at about two-thirds of hospitals in the French-speaking Wallonia region and Brussels were involved in the conflict, with non-urgent appointments and operations postponed.
The nationwide strike also disrupted business activities as workers set up barricades at supermarkets and shopping malls.
The federal government has taken a number of measures to alleviate the plight of the poorest in society to ensure they do not bear the brunt of the energy and inflation crisis.
But the energy package – which includes subsidies as well as an extension of so-called social tariffs for more vulnerable groups – has failed to assuage the anger of thousands of struggling citizens. to earn a living.
According to unions, the price of gas has increased by 130% in just one year, electricity by 85% and fuel by 57%. Food prices also increased.
Belgium has established a wage index system to ensure that if the cost of living increases, so does wages, pensions and benefits.
But unions have argued that the next indexing – which will not be before January for hundreds of thousands of workers – does not take into account higher fuel prices specifically, so there is always a loss in purchasing power. .