The planned actions of the unions, which will speak out on Thursday, October 5, against a ban on demonstrations by Justice Minister Vincent Van Quickenborne, are about to cause significant disruptions to public transport in Brussels. While the unions STIB, De Lijn and TEC have announced that their staff will participate in a national strike day, it is once again the travelers who will be hardest hit. These actions, although not explicitly aimed at the transport companies themselves, come in the wake of several protest actions that took place earlier this year.
The industrial action is a response to a bill by Justice Minister Van Quickenborne, which would give judges the power to temporarily ban individuals from participating in demonstrations. Although the bill has received support from the House committee, there has been criticism from various quarters that it could become a tool to restrict even peaceful protests.
Despite the serious nature of the issue being protested, frustration among travelers is growing. TreinTramBus, an association that represents the interests of travelers, has now finished the industrial action that affects its members. Chairman Peter Meukens has expressed his dissatisfaction about the increasing inconvenience for travelers, who have already had to deal with similar situations four times this year. According to Meukens, the previous actions focused on trade union freedoms, social dumping, better public services and tax justice. While these are all important issues, he asks why this should come at the expense of the daily mobility of the population.
It is high time that all parties involved seriously consider how the general interest of society can be served without disrupting the normal flow of public transport. The question arises whether the unions and the government can work together on alternative forms of action that do not affect the daily lives of tens of thousands of travelers, who are so often the victims of these actions.