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Rail union to strike on 30 June
The socialist rail trade union ACOD has confirmed it will take strike action for 24 hours starting at 22.00 on Sunday, 29 June.
NMBS CEO Jo Cornu, who is experiencing the first strike since taking over the top job, said that “by striking, they are smearing the image of the NMBS. They’re damaging their own company like this. I can’t just allow this to happen. I really don’t need to see a new Sabena scenario.”
He also expressed bewilderment at the cause of the strike. ACOD complains of a shortage of staff, leading to a situation where workers are unable to take days off, with up to one million vacation days unused. According to Cornu, the problem is not new and is being addressed.
“It’s not true to say that not enough new people are being hired,” he said. “We’re actually recruiting more than needed because we will require those people for the new rail traffic plan,” which comes into force in December.
NMBS staff have 53 vacation days a year. Most people, said Cornu, want to take their days during holiday periods, so some workers’ leave is not allowed if too many people have applied for that period. But that is not a problem caused by lace of recruitment, he said.
Unizo, the organisation that represents the self-employed in Flanders, accused the union of pushing their own point of view at the expense of “innocent victims”.
“A strike always takes workers, bosses, students and tourists as hostages,” Unizo said in a statement. “The impact is even greater at the start of the holiday period.”
Many of those passengers will be festival-goers trying to get home from the weekend’s music festivals, including Summer Festival in Antwerp, Couleur Café in Brussels and Graspop in Dessel. Summer Festival has said it will keep one of its two campsites open for those among the expected 65,000 who find themselves stranded by the strike.