Labour unions in Belgium have begun a 24-hour nationwide strike against government policies that will extend the pension age, contain wages and cut public services.

Angry strikers gathered on Monday to protest against what they called the government's lack of support for the Belgian economy.

An activist stood at one picket line in the capital Brussels for the country’s CSC trade union, saying protesters are here on a common front to denounce government measures.

"Austerity measures imposed by the government will cost the economy $2.5bn, and we are denouncing it because the SNCB will not be able to support this debt, this economy," he said.

Train services like Eurostar and flights standstill, causing inconvenience for travelling passengers who thought they could catch an early escape before protests erupt.

Cancelling flights across the country, Belgian air traffic control, Beglocontrol, also took part on the strike.

Check-in counters remain empty as 600 flights had been cancelled affecting 50 thousand passengers, said a spokesperson for Brussels Airport.

The Belgian government says it is forced to push through firm austerity measures to maintain the budget deficit within the European constraints, and it insists businesses need tax policies they could tolerate to become more competitive in the global market.

Monday’s strike is part of a month-long campaign against a free-market liberal coalition.

Trade unions say government policies only aim to target workers with extended pension age limits, a freeze of the automatic link between wages and inflation, and cuts in public services that will hit the population as a whole. 

Source: AFP