BRUSSELS—Tensions rose in Belgium on Friday as the country faced its first general strike in 12 years.
The industrial action was backed only by the socialist union ABVV, with the Christian union ACV and the Liberal ACLVB continuing to support the diplomatic route.
However, the action still hit Belgium badly since it extended across numerous sectors and ABVV unionists mounted roadblocks to stop non-striking employees getting to work.
Beginning at 10pm on Thursday, it was scheduled to continue until 10pm on Friday, as workers protested the government's proposals to reform the social security and pension system.
All trains ground to a halt, both national and international services, with SNCB, Thalys and Eurostar cancelling their services.
Most buses and trams also stopped. Just one tram was running in Brussels on Friday morning, according to the radio and TV news service RTBF.
Although flights at Brussels National Airport were reported to be running normally, Charleroi Airport was completely closed, with no takeoffs or landings throughout the day.
Schools, universities and the post office were also closed.
Numerous companies also joined the strike, including Opel in Antwerp, Sappi at Lanaken and the BMW factory in Bornem.
However, news of which workers were following the strike filtered through slowly since much of the Belgian media supported the industrial action.
Brussels Chamber of Commerce reacted angrily to unionists who mounted
roadblocks at the entrances to Brussels. The chamber said that
exceeded the right to strike and described the move as
unacceptable breach which proved the unionists were worried the
strike would be badly supported by workers.