Belgium: national strike set to cripple Belgian industries, transport and postal service

Commuters and travelers across Belgium were to face a tough time getting to their destinations Friday, as Belgium's largest socialist union said it would go ahead with its one-day national strike to protest changes to social security.

Transportation on buses, subways, trams and trains - including high-speed Eurostar and Thalys rail links to London, Paris and Amsterdam - was being scrapped on Friday.

Flights in and out of Brussels international airport were also likely to be affected, as baggage handlers were taking part in the strike.

Postal workers were joining in, as were employees of the country's biggest port of Antwerp, which was to be shut down during the strike, the AP reports.

Government officials urged people to work from home if they could in order to avoid car gridlock on the highways.

Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt was chairing talks with unions and the employers' federation to make changes to the early retirement system that would make it tougher for workers to retire early with full benefits. Verhofstadt is pushing unions and businesses to accept raising the retirement age from 58 to 60, to cut pensions costs.

If the talks fail to reach a deal, other unions said they could join in a larger national strike later in the month. AM

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