Brussels public transport paralyzed by workers' strike over death

People lay flowers at the site in Brussels, Belgium where a transport worker was beaten to death on April 7.

Story highlights

  • A transport company supervisor died after he was punched by a member of the public
  • Striking transport workers want authorities to give them more protection
  • Their company and the Belgian government say they will recruit new security staff
  • Brussels is home to NATO, the European Commission and many other international groups

Public transport in the Belgian capital, Brussels, was paralyzed for a fourth day Tuesday after staff walked out to protest the death of a co-worker in an assault.

Guy Sablon, a spokesman for the company that runs the Brussels public transport network, STIB, told CNN there are no buses, trams or trains operating in the city.

The workers have demanded new security measures to keep staff safe.

The city's transport network was shut down Saturday after a traffic accident involving a car and a bus led to a fatal assault.

Sablon told CNN that a friend of the car driver had punched an STIB supervisor who was taking pictures of the accident scene.

When the man saw the supervisor taking the photographs, "he completely lost it," Sablon said. "He then punched him in the face, and unfortunately this punch killed the supervisor."

Sablon said the attack was not an isolated incident.

"Every day, our staff suffer aggressive abuse from clients, so they have unfortunately gotten used to aggressive situations," Sablon said.

"Therefore, we have endorsed this strike and demanded measures from the government."

Both the Belgian government and the STIB announced new measures Monday evening.

STIB announced that it will recruit 50 new security officers, on top of the 190 officers it already has. As a short-term response, it will also move some of its staff from duties such as checking tickets to security roles.

The government also announced that it would hire 400 new police officers, dedicated to working on the public transport network.

"Now the unions have to explain these measures to their members. We had hoped that they would be back at work this morning, but they were not ready to return to work. So we will see how long the strike will last," Sablon said.

"These are very good measures, and they will have a big impact. It will just take some time to implement them," he added.

Brussels is home to NATO, the European Commission and European Council, as well as many other international organizations.

      CNN recommends

    • pkg clancy north korea nuclear dreams_00002004.jpg

      As "We are the World" plays, a video shows what looks like a nuclear attack on the U.S. Jim Clancy reports on a bizarre video from North Korea.
    • Photojournalist Alison Wright travelled the world to capture its many faces in her latest book, "Face to Face: Portraits of the Human Spirit."
    • pkg rivers uk football match fixing_00005026.jpg

      Europol claims 380 soccer matches, including top level ones, were fixed - as the scandal widens, CNN's Dan Rivers looks at how it's done.
    • No Eiffel Towers, Statues of Liberties, Mt. Rushmores, Taj Mahals, Aussie koalas or Chairman Maos.

      It's an essential part of any trip, an activity we all take part in. Yet almost none of us are any good at it. Souvenir buying is too often an obligatory slog.