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Brussels at near-standstill as ‘cost-of-living’ march draws 70,000

Some 70,000 Belgian workers marched through Brussels on Monday demanding government action to tackle sharply rising living costs, as one-day strikes at Brussels Airport and local transport networks nationwide brought public travel to a near-halt.

Protesters carried flags and banners reading “More respect, higher wages” and “End excise duties,” while some set off flares. Some demanded the government do more, while others said employers needed to improve both pay and working conditions.

Belgians Protest Against Spike In Cost Of Living

Belgians took to the street to protest against the cost of living, forcing Brussels Airport to cancel all departing flights on Monday

— (@voiceofnaijang) June 20, 2022
Unions said about 80,000 were present. Police put the figure closer to 70,000.

Brussels Airport announced it could not allow passenger flights to depart since the industrial action extends to security personnel, furthermore most arrivals were cancelled. Local public transport operators were running skeleton services, however some train lines were operating to the extent of allowing protesters to converge at the capital.

Belgian inflation hit 9 percent in June, mirroring sharp rises elsewhere driven primarily by the impact that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has had on supply chains, on energy and commodity prices.

The country’s Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said Belgian workers were better protected than their counterparts of most other European Union countries because wages are indexed to inflation. He also told public broadcaster RTBF that the government had extended sales tax breaks on gas, electricity and fuel, until the end of the year.

Further travel disruption is expected later this week, with the pilots and cabin crew of Brussels Airlines planning a strike on June 23-25 over working conditions, and their Ryanair counterparts in Belgium are set for three days of action from Friday.

Protests in London
Last week, thousands took to the streets of England’s capital in a protest organised by trade unions, against their government policies that are now projecting inflation at more than 9 percent over the next few months.

Earlier on Thursday, the Bank of England raised interest rates for the fifth consecutive month to 1.25 percent up from 1 percent as inflation hit a 40 year high, while the banks’ Monetary Policy Committee further voted to raise UK interest rates to a fresh 13 year high.

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