24-hour strike paralyzes Belgium train traffic

Associated Press Modified: October 3, 2012 at 8:35 am •  Published: October 3, 2012

Matthieu Regibout, who works in Brussels, said he took the last train on Tuesday, and slept in his office to avoid the strike's effect.

Rail workers are fearful their employment conditions will be undermined under a new plan to revamp and streamline the three companies currently overseeing train traffic in Belgium.

Unions want to go back to a single company controlling the rail grid and train traffic, saying the numerous and lengthy delays of the past could be blamed on managerial disorganization.

The state-controlled rail sector has traditionally been a huge employer in Belgium, a historic trailblazer when it comes to its dense rail grid. It still employed some 65,000 people two decades ago, but it has now dwindled to 37,000 with no personnel expansion in sight, said socialist union leader Jean-Pierre Goossens.

"Every day, pressure at work increases since there are no hirings," Goossens said.

The VBO federation of employers said there was no reason to hobble the nation and its embattled economy with the 15th labor action in the sector over the past two years and called for limits on the right to strike.

"It is time to contain this abuse of power," said Bart Buysse, VBO director general.

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