Source Pravda.Ru

Mass strikes held across southern Belgium

Union workers in southern Belgium launched more wildcat strikes Tuesday ahead of a nationwide strike planned for later this week, protesting government plans to raise the retirement age.

Organizations representing employers called for police to prevent workers from blocking entry to plants, further aggravating tensions with the unions.

Unions tried to close down firms in the administrative center of Namur after halting work on Monday at steel factories and Charleroi airport, both about 50 kilometers south and southeast of Brussels.

The socialist union, which held a nationwide strike earlier this month, will be joined by the other unions for the Oct. 28 demonstration. Under government plans the earliest age for retirement will become 60 years old instead of 58, although many exemptions will apply.

Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt has said he understands workers' concerns but said change is needed to cut future pension costs, the AP reports.

V.Y.