INTRODUCTION: Belgium's main trade unions staged a 24-hour protest strike on Thursday (5 February) against the government's pay restraint policy.
GV & SV Pickets outside tram station in Brussels. (2 SHOTS)
SV Bus stop TILT DOWN TO street empty of buses.
SV Taxi pulling away in heavy traffic.
SV Station sign, PAN TO underground train in station.
CU Foot holding door open. Union officials, pickets. (2 SHOTS)
GV Police arriving and forcing doors closed so train can move off.
GV & SV Pickets outside oil refinery in town, near Antwerp. (2 SHOTS)
GV Oil refinery, PULL BACK TO GV pickets outside gate. (2 SHOTS)
TRAVELLING SHOT Oil refinery.
GV Demonstrators marching with banners in Turnhout. (2 SHOTS)
GV Marchers with flags. (2 SHOTS)
Script is copyright Reuters Limited. All rights reserved
Background: INTRODUCTION: Belgium's main trade unions staged a 24-hour protest strike on Thursday (5 February) against the government's pay restraint policy. It caused widespread disruption of the country's public transport and some sectors of industry.
SYNOPSIS: Trains, buses and trams were brought to a standstill and major industrial firms, especially in the south, were affected as thousands of workers stayed home. The main Socialist and Christian unions called the strike, protesting at Belgian Prime Minister Wilfried Martens' proposed wage freeze. New government legislation proposes to limit pay rises to the official cost of living index for two years for all but lower paid workers. This underground train in Brussels was held up by union officials and pickets but police arrived to help send it on its way.
The union walkout hit by oil refineries and other major industries, delayed air services from Brussels and closed many shops. Thursday's strike came two days after thousands of people stopped work in the southern industrial town of Charlerloi. The key steel and textile industries have both suffered widespread stoppages in recent weeks.
The Belgian unions want a voluntary pay restraint agreement with the government. This would give then greater flexibility to negotiate salaries and conditions.
The unions are calling for more talks about the voluntary wage agreement but the employers have delayed their reply. The new legislation allows for this voluntary accord if it's reached by February 15th. The unions have threatened further action if no agreement is reached with the employers by that time. The government argues that pay restraint is the only way to solve the country's economic problems and restore the competition to industry.