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Belgian unions to stage more strikes after government talks fail

Reuters , Thursday 4 Dec 2014
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Belgian unions on Thursday rejected a government offer to water down planned austerity measures and said they would hold more strikes, culminating in a nationwide day of protest on Dec. 15.

The country's new centre right government intends to cut health and social security budgets in an effort to raise competitiveness and reduce public sector debt from around 100 percent of annual economic output.

In talks with unions and employers on Thursday, it proposed a number of concessions to ease the transition, such as phasing in restrictions on early retirement. The unions were unimpressed.

"The measures of the Michel government will greatly increase poverty among workers, the young and the old, worsen employment standards and not create any jobs," three unions said in a joint statement.

They have planned a series of regional strikes every Monday until Dec. 15, when they plan a day of nationwide action. Next week, industrial action will focus on the capital Brussels and surrounding provinces.

Euro zone finance ministers are due to meet in Brussels on Monday.

Brussels Airport said it would be hard for people to get to the airport and said it own services would also be hit. The country's main carrier, Brussels Airlines, warned passengers to travel only with hand luggage for the next two Mondays.

High speed rail operator Thalys said it had cancelled most trains to Germany, France and the Netherlands on Monday, as well as a number on Sunday evening and Tuesday morning.

Eurostar, which operates services between Brussels and London, said all of its trains to Brussels would terminate in Lille, France, on both December 8 and 15.

State broadcasters VRT and RTBF will also offer only limited broadcasts next Monday though promised business as usual on December 15.

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