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06 October 2008

Grève grief

Grève is the French word for strike. The ‘è’ is pronounced like ‘eh’, and the closest linguistic equivalent for me is grief. As in, these unions are giving us grief. Because they are, you know. All of the public transport in Brussels, and the national trains, and Thayls, the international train, are not operating. The post office closed, other government offices are closed. Some schools asked children to be kept at home – thankfully, not mine; the big stores including the supermarkets are closed. The streets of Brussels, frankly, are very quiet.

The strike is not about the fact that Belgium doesn’t yet have a working government. Nor are the strikers concerned with the recent failing of Belgium’s biggest bank. No, this is the annual strike of inconvenience to all and sundry. It takes place every October. This year the slogan is diminishing purchase power….

Somebody cry me a river.

I don’t get the day off – and I don’t want to take the day off. I have work to do, which I want to do, and because my bike is in the shop I had to (1) walk the girls to school and then (2) walk myself to the office. I was worried that if I drove there would be gridlock and nowhere to park. (However I needn't have worried and in fact will drive later on when I usually don't -- a great result, eh?)

Don’t get me wrong. I support action where action is warranted – strikes over health and safety, for example. I supported the tram drivers’ strike last year, when drivers were being regularly threatened by passengers with knives or other weapons. But this?

As far as I can see this annual exercise achieves only (1) irritation among those who have work to do and (2) forces people to drive who usually wouldn't. Good grief, can someone please spare us?

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