Angry lorry drivers brought traffic to a crawl in Brussels on Monday to protest against unfair competition from eastern Europe that undercuts prices and lowers wages and working conditions.
About 100 lorries in five convoys imposed a go-slow on several main roads heading into the Belgian capital during the morning.
Hundreds of other drivers also gathered close to the Brussels ring road to protest against the pay inequalities.
Unions and lorry drivers' groups say that the open borders within the European Union are not matched by similar pay rates and working conditions.
That's leaving drivers from the higher-paying, western member states out in the cold - and their eastern colleagues underpaid.
They are calling for laws to make sure that eastern European drivers are paid a fair rate.
Under the slogan "Equal wages for equal jobs" they called on the EU to clamp down with tougher checks on illegal practices by cowboy companies based in low-paying countries.
"This action is absolutely not targeted against eastern truckers since these people are only trying to earn a living," said Frank Moreels of the Belgian ABVV trade union.
He said that Polish, Romanian and Bulgarian drivers were often sent to countries such as Belgium, where they get half pay or less in terrible conditions set by "mailbox" companies which open in eastern Europe only to escape social benefit legislation in wealthier countries.
"They are exploited. They sleep in their trucks or caravans for months and are badly paid compared with social standards here," said Mr Moreels.
He added that the lower prices that these companies charge are driving local firms out of business.
"Either the truck drivers here lose their job or their working conditions quickly worsen," he said.
The European Parliament is currently debating laws to counter such practices in which companies take shelter in member states with the least social legislation and then send workers to wealthier nations to undercut wages, causing a classic race to the bottom.
"We all back an open transport market," said Euro MP Ivo Belet. "But it is only workable if there is fair competition, including the respect for key social legislation rules."
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