Austerity measures bring general strike in Belgium

A nationwide strike in Belgium has brought air, rail and road transport to a standstill and forced many businesses to close.

Hundreds of flights to and from Belgium have been cancelled, as well as Eurostar services to Brussels.

The widespread industrial action is the latest in a series of strikes protesting against the new centre-right coalition’s austerity policies.

The government plans to save €11bn (£8.7bn) in the next five years.

The 24-hour strike is the largest to have taken place in Belgium for many years. It has forced government offices and schools to close, and the country’s ports have been blockaded.

Unions are opposing a decision by Charles Michel – Belgium’s new leader – to scrap a cost-of-living wage rise next year. Belgian law currently mandates that wages rise at the same pace as inflation.

They are also protesting against public sector cutbacks and plans to increase the retirement age.

Mr Michel was sworn in as prime minister in October. The 38-year-old French-speaking liberal is Belgium’s youngest leader since 1841.

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