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Belgian trade unions gone on strike; all public transport disrupted

Belgian trade unions gone on strike; all public transport disruptedA strike in Belgium on Friday disrupted public transport across the country, closed factories and hit its largest airport as trade unions protested against government cutbacks.

Brussels Airport advised passengers to only travel with hand luggage as most flights operated normally but some baggage handlers had gone on strike. Public broadcaster VRT said striking workers had closed the cargo entrance for trucks.

While there was no disruption to trains, bus services were impacted throughout Belgium. Brussels public transport group STIB/MIVB said it was operating at about 75 percent of capacity.

The strike is the latest protest against government cutbacks. Last week, tens of thousands of Belgian workers marched through Brussels on the second anniversary of the center-right government in protest against what workers' see as plans to extend the working week and abandon a scheduled wage increase.

Friday's strike also hit production at some of the country's largest factories.

Production at ArcelorMittal's plant in Ghent was halted with picket lines allowing in only a minimal number of workers in order to guarantee the safety of the equipment.

Workers at Audi's Brussels plant were not on strike but output was reduced because many could not make it to the plant on time because of a lack of public transport, a spokesman said.
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