Angry Over Austerity Measures, Belgian Workers Go On Strike
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BRUSSELS -- Belgium was paralyzed by a national strike Monday as unions, angry over austerity measures, timed the protest to coincide with a one-day meeting of European Union leaders here in the capital.
The rail network was shut down and flights were severely disrupted, with the airport at Charleroi, a hub for the low-cost carrier Ryanair, closed by the first general strike in Belgium since 1993.
Tram, bus and metro services in Brussels were suspended, transportation officials said. High-speed international trains, like the Eurostar from London and Thalys from Paris, were among those canceled.
Belgian news media reported that most government buildings and many schools were closed and that postal services were not operating. Many stores were closed, and striking workers erected barriers to block access to industrial zones.
In central Brussels, traffic was light, however, as many workers stayed home. Those who did venture out braved icy temperatures and light snow.
The country's main airport at Zaventem, in Brussels, remained open but canceled some flights and advised travelers to check with their airlines before going to the airport.
Belgium is one of many European nations struggling to control its budget, and unions are angry over plans to cut spending and raise taxes.
First Published January 31, 2012 12:00 am