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Trade unions consider further action after thousands join national strike
Between 70,000 and 80,000 demonstrators filled the streets of Brussels on Monday as the national strike against rising bills and declining salaries paralysed the capital and other cities around Belgium, RTBF and Bruzz reports.
The crowds, made up of members of trade unions campaigning for "real wage increases" as inflation soars as well as anti-poverty and sociocultural organisations, took the traditional route along the north-south axis of the city, culminating in a gathering at Brussels Midi train station.
The demonstration was noisy and caused major disruptions to traffic and public transport, but it passed without any serious incidents. Smoke bombs were let off along the route and many of the demonstrators were drinking but police noted that the march had, on the whole, gone smoothly and no major interventions had been necessary.
Empowered by the turnout, the trade unions who organised the national strike, announced that a federal committee will be convened on 28 June, where further actions will be decided upon. Based on the reactions of their supporters, the unions will consider whether or not to take further and possibly heavier actions. The committee will meet the day before a hearing takes place in parliament on the wage standard law that the unions are protesting.
Miranda Ulens, general secretary of the FGTB union, warned that Belgium was facing a "hot autumn" if the wage standard law was not adjusted. "A wage margin for the next two years that may become zero comma zero will not be accepted by the trade unions,” she said.
Elsewhere, the strike led to all departing flights from Brussels airport being cancelled. Airport authorities have since warned travellers to expect delays on Tuesday and Wednesday as large numbers of passengers flock to the airport for rescheduled flights.
"For Tuesday and Wednesday, we expect a large number of passengers, following the postponement of reservations initially planned for Monday," Brussels Airport said in a series of messages posted on Twitter.
The airport advises departing passengers to arrive two hours in advance for flights within the Schengen area and three hours in advance for flights outside the Schengen area.
Travelers are also advised to check the status of their flight and prepare their hand luggage so that security checks can take place quickly.
For arriving flights, the airport also recommends checking the status on its website, as flight schedules could be changed as a result of Monday's disruptions.