Belgium cancels all flights as workers stage national strike

Brussels airport says they plan to handle 591 flights. (AFP)
Updated 13 February 2019
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Belgium cancels all flights as workers stage national strike

  • The airspace will be closed for 24 hours, starting at 21:00 GMT, due to possible lack of staff
  • Officials expect the temporary closure will affect almost 60,000 passengers

BRUSSELS: Belgian airports canceled almost all flights on Wednesday due to a national strike over pay and working conditions that halted activity at ports, hit public transport and led to blockades outside factories.

Belgian air traffic control body Skeyes shut Belgian airspace for 24 hours from 10 p.m. (2100 GMT) on Tuesday because it could not guarantee enough staff would turn up.

Brussels Airport, the country’s busiest hub, said it had planned to handle 591 passenger and cargo departures and arrivals and that the strike would hit some 60,000 travelers.

Just one passenger flight, to Moscow, would depart late on Wednesday, with a few late arrivals and some cargo flights.

National rail operator SNCB said about half of its train services were running. High-speed Thalys, running to Amsterdam and Paris, said it should be running normal services, though catering might not be available on all trains. Some Eurostar trains to London were canceled due to maintenance.

Dock workers were not loading or unloading ships in the port of Antwerp. Blockades stopped work at factories across the country.

Brussels’ metro, tram and bus operator ran just a handful of lines. The situation was the same in the rest of the country.

Unions are calling for wage increases, an improved work-life balance and better pensions in talks with employers. Some see the strike as political action against the center-right federal government ahead of a parliamentary election.

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel said talks needed to resume by Thursday and added that companies had created 219,000 jobs in the past four years thanks to the government’s policies.

Belgium’s Central Council of the Economy, composed of worker, employer and consumer representatives, has advised that the maximum pay hike for 2019 and 2020 should be 0.8 percent. Michel’s office said that, including wage indexation, this meant an effective pay increase of up to 4.6 percent.


Saudi Arabia, China sign $28 billion worth of economic accords

Updated 22 February 2019
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Saudi Arabia, China sign $28 billion worth of economic accords

  • A total 35 agreements had been signed at a joint investment forum held by Saudi Arabia’s investment agency SAGIA

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia and China signed economic cooperation agreements worth a total of $28 billion at a joint investment forum during a visit by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to Beijing, Saudi state news agency SPA said on Friday.
It said 35 agreements had been signed at the forum, held by Saudi Arabia’s investment agency SAGIA. It also said four licenses for Chinese companies had been awarded at the forum.

The forum, which coincided with the official visit of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman China as part of his Asian tour, aimed at enhancing opportunities for joint cooperation between the two countries in various fields.

Other cooperation agreements signed during the forum included areas of the Kingdom's target sectors such as renewable energy aimed at activating cooperation and consultation frameworks in the field of investment development in wind turbines by manufacturing Electric control devices, wind turbine structures, turbine blades and wind generators with an investment of $ 18 million.

The agreement aims to open up to 800 new job opportunities in one of the most targeted sectors of sustainable development.