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Strike action in protest of SNCB's plan to close ticket offices
The CGSP Cheminots trade union has informed the SNCB, Belgium’s national rail operator, that its members intend to strike next Wednesday in protest at the closure of 44 ticket offices in stations across the country. Train schedules and services should not be affected by the action, the Socialist union said.
The aim of the strike is to alert customers and railway workers of the SNCB’s decision to close the counters, explained the national president of the CGSP Cheminots, Pierre Lejeune.
On 9 February, the SNCB board of directors announced that these ticket offices would be closed at the stations concerned by the end of the year. Several meetings, including one on Monday, have since taken place between management and trade unions, but these "have not provided any reassurance about the future of the ticket offices," according to Lejeune who added that there was no more time for dialogue and that action was needed.
The strike, which will take place on 3 March between 10.00 and 15.00, is aimed at "defending public service" and not penalising travellers, Lejeune stressed. It is not known whether other unions will take similar steps.
The SLFP Cheminots union announced that its representatives would be meeting with federal mobility minister Georges Gilkinet on 1 March in an attempt to make a breakthrough. "We will reaffirm our wishes and hope to get a more than attentive ear from him," a spokesperson for the liberal union said. "The SLFP Cheminots condemns the SNCB's contempt for its ticket staff and will not hesitate to use the means at its disposal to put pressure on it."
Meanwhile, the provincial councillors of Walloon Brabant voted unanimously on Thursday night to support an emergency motion tabled by Luc D'Hondt of the Independent Democratic Federalist party (DéFI) to keep the ticket offices at La Hulpe, Rixensart, Waterloo and Wavre stations open. A letter to this effect will be sent to the SNCB, detailing the arguments in favour of maintaining the ticket offices.
D’Hondt told the council meeting that the municipalities concerned have good reason to protest and that the station ticket offices must remain open so that the service continues to be available to all citizens, including the elderly, those who have no knowledge of digital tools or the vulnerable. The accompanying measures announced by the SNCB do not solve all the problems that will result from the closure, he pointed out.