BRUSSELS – All flights to and from Belgium were canceled for 24 hours on Wednesday due to a nationwide strike called by the country’s three main trade unions to demand increased wages.
The agency in charge of Belgian air traffic, Skeyes, said it was forced to ground all commercial flights from Tuesday at 10:00 pm until the same time on Wednesday night.
“The company does not have sufficient insight into the staffing levels during the industrial action,” Skeyes said, explaining that its employees do not have to advise in advance whether they will be participating in the strike.
Because of the lack of certainty about key posts being staffed, the company said not allowing air traffic was the only way to guarantee people’s safety.
Brussels Airport, the country’s largest, has asked that passengers do not come to the airport and said all airlines had either canceled or diverted their flights.
The nationwide strike will also affect police, hospitals, trains and public buses.
Belgium’s rail operator, NMBS/SNCB, said traffic would be “severely disrupted” during the strike, and that “an alternative train service in accordance with staff availability” would be put in place.
International rail services were expected to be operating close to normal, with “some exceptions.”
Brussels’ public transport operator, STIB/MIVB, said its network would be “strongly disrupted.”
Only one out of five underground Metro lines were scheduled to run, with less than a dozen tram or bus services operating in the city of 1.2 million people.
The industrial action was not expected to have any impact on a NATO defense ministers meeting taking place on Wednesday and Thursday in the city, which is home to the alliance’s headquarters.
Most of Brussels’ services, including police, museums, post, rubbish collection and hospitals, would be disrupted or closed, local authorities warned.
The strike was called after the breakdown of the first round of discussions between trade unions and employers and the government.
The unions consider a proposed salary increase of 0.8 percent over the next two years in 2019 and 2020 to be insufficient.