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General strike paralyses Belgium

Monday, January 30, 2012 - 01:46

Jan. 30 - Belgium's general strike against a government austerity plan halts transport and closes schools and businesses. Lindsey Parietti reports.

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Joining Belgium's first general strike in nearly two decades, workers protest outside an Audi car plant against austerity measures. The government plans to raise the effective retirement age and take other measures to save 11.3 billion euros. The strike coincides with the 17th EU summit in two years as the bloc deals with the debt problems of its member countries. (SOUNDBITE) (French) LEADER OF SOCIALIST UNION FGTB IN AUDI FACTORY, SAID BEN ALI, SAYING: "We are afraid because it won't be the first austerity plan. We hear of more plans coming up. This is why we are here. They are targeting the retirement benefits, the early retirement benefits, unemployment benefits and time credit." Trains and buses were also brought to a halt Monday. Authorities said about 10 percent of flights were cancelled in Brussels and some EU leaders attending the summit are being re-routed to a military airport. The president of the Belgium Pilot Association says they are sending a message to politicians. (SOUNDBITE) (English) PRESIDENT OF THE BELGIAN PILOT ASSOCIATION, ARNOUT VAN ALDERWEIRELDT, SAYING: "We are left with nothing, we paid contributions for many years and then we are back to zero, basically, we are told we are not entitled to the rights we've paid for before and that we will talk about the future, so every pilot is upset in Belgium with this situation and that's why some flights didn't depart today.' The austerity measures aim to lower Belgium's public debt to avoid an EU fine and reassure investors. Lindsey Parietti, Reuters

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General strike paralyses Belgium

Monday, January 30, 2012 - 01:46