General strike on Wednesday: what disruption can you expect?

Belgium’s trades unions have called a general strike on Wednesday. The unions are protesting in favour of more scope for pay rises. Considerable disruption is expected.

Belgian rail hopes to run half of all services. On the railways the 24-hour strike starts on Tuesday at 10PM. The rail company expects to operate most intercity services between the main towns during the morning and evening rush hours. There will be fewer services at other times. The rail company recommends you use its routeplanner on the internet to find out which services are running.

There should be little disruption to international services. One Thalys service is being cancelled. Greater difficulties are expected for Eurostar passengers. Services to England should not be affected, but because the Intra- Schengen terminal at Brussels South will be closed Eurostar passengers bound for Lille and Calais could experience problems. Little disruption is expected on ICE and TGV.

Local transport company De Lijn will concentrate available staff on priority routes. Here too the De Lijn website or app should be consulted. The unions point to great willingness to strike and expect few buses to run. The Brussels local transport company MIVB is braced for major disruption to trams, buses and metros in the capital.

Belgian air traffic controllers are taking strike action starting 10PM on Tuesday. Because the air traffic control agency cannot guarantee all crucial jobs can be filled, no flights will be allowed to take off or land at Belgian airports. Belgian airspace is not being closed. Planes crossing Belgium will be unaffecetd because their journey is routed by European air traffic conteollers. Brussels Airport had hoped to stay open but 386 of 511 planned flights were already cancelled. No Brussels Airlines flights were planned. Charleroi Airport will stay shut too.

The Port of Antwerp expects serious disruption. Several terminals are being closed as a precaution. The socialist union believes the entire port will be at a standstill. The port of Ghent too is expected to be paralysed and pickets will be out.

Postal unions haven’t called for workers to join the strike, but strikers will receive union support. A mixed picture is to be expected that may be complicated by picketing at industry zones. The post office will prioritise parcels and newspapers.

Until recently a general strike meant a busy rush hour on the roads, but nowadays more and more people are working from home. The congestion feared my not materialise.

In industry the strike will most keenly be felt in big companies where unions are well organised. Less strike action is expected at SMEs. Many supermarkets will be closed especially in Brussels and Wallonia.

The strike isn’t expected to hit schools too badly with most disruption in municipal schools in Antwerp, Ghent and Brussels. Flemish community schools too will be affected. Expect disruption at municipal crèches in Brussels, Antwerp and Ghent.

A minimum service is guaranteed in nursing homes. In hospitals non-urgent operations may be postponed.

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