Harbour pilots at the Port of Antwerp began an indefinite strike last Monday. As many as 40 cargo ships were stranded outside the Belgian port, waiting to berth, with several ultra-large container vessels deciding to divert to the Port of Rotterdam.
The strike also has affected operations in the smaller ports of Zeebrugge and Ghent. The strike action, which threatened to spread to inland waterways, is over a proposal by the federal government which they said would “reduce the benefits afforded to pilots in their capacity as public employees”. The pilots want to protect their paid time off and long-term disability pay, according to local reports.
“What the unions are doing now is unprecedented, and demonstrates anything but a sense of responsibility,” said Liesbeth Homans, vice-minister-president for of the Flemish government, adding that the pilots should come to the table to negotiate rather than “crippling the Flemish economy and holding a huge number of businesses and their employees hostage.”