In the Charleroi industrial area - as well as in other parts of Belgium - several days' scattered strikes culminated in a concentrated effort by workers throughout the country's industry and public services, Dec 22, to lend massive weight to their protests against austerity measures planned by the Government.
GV. Work stops at construction plant.
LV. Workers leave plant.
LV. Works gates are closed.
LV. Boats idle on canal.
LV. Empty rail station.
SV. Gates shut.
LV. Empty platform.
SV. Mailbags on platform.
SV. Pickets outside station.
GV. Works shut.
SV. Gates shut.
LV. Man talking to workers.
LV. Workers leave meeting.
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Background: In the Charleroi industrial area - as well as in other parts of Belgium - several days' scattered strikes culminated in a concentrated effort by workers throughout the country's industry and public services, Dec 22, to lend massive weight to their protests against austerity measures planned by the Government.
Work stopped in heavy industry plants, blast furnaces and metal works; telephone exchanges and post offices were closed; trams ran only for two hours, accompanied by police. Railway stations were deserted with local train services down to a minimum and international expresses diverted or turned back at the border.
In the Borinage district, thousands of miners walked out following a call by the General Federation of Labour. This came after railway workers had joined strikes by gas, electricity, port and office personnel. The Socialist trade union ordered an immediate stoppage by all postal workers in the Brussels area.
In Brussels, police guarded the Royal Palace and Parliament, where noisy exchanges were taking place on the "Loi Unique" - the bill that involves tax increases and social benefit cuts intended to make good Belgium's economic losses in the Congo. Riot squads kept close watch on all railway stations. A strike by municipal employees meant, among other things, that dustbins remained unemptied for the third day running.
A statement by the ruling Catholic Party condemned Socialist strike action as "wild, irresponsible and damaging" and called on the Government to safeguard order and freedom "with firmness and without hesitation". It appealed to the nation to help the Government prevent "anarchists from plunging the country into chaos".