Belgium's crippling nationwide strike yesterday (30 January) is estimated to have cost around EUR200m (US$264m) with the automotive sector taking a significant proportion of the loss.

Following Italy's mass protest by lorry drivers last week that saw Fiat forced to halt all production, Belgium has become the latest European country to endure huge industrial unrest.

The county has only properly started working again this morning after vast swathes of public and private sector workers walked out in protest at government austerity measures, designed to curb Belgium's debt issues.

Belgian employers organisation Agoria representing around 13 sectors of which automotive is the largest, said no factories worked, although some voluntarily shut down in anticipation of industrial action.

"We have a figure," Agoria social department director Geert Verschraegen told just-auto from Brussels. "From Agoria we have around 13 sectors including metalworking, aerospace et cetera [but] auto is the largest part of them - we have a loss of around EUR50m. "They say in Belgium for all sectors it [loss] could be EUR200m."

The employers body social director outlined why Belgium was in such a state of foment as the country - in conjunction with much of Europe - grapples with huge deficit problems.

"Belgium has to take some measures [that] will implicate the budget problems we have," said Verschraegen. "Firstly, to work longer and measures to make it more difficult to go on early retirement. Europe already said to Belgium, we don't know if the measures already taken are sufficient.

"Wage costs in Belgium are way too high when you compare ourselves to Germany - we have a wage cost problem and it must be dealt with by the government."

Belgium is home to numerous automaker and suppliers such as Volvo, Audi, Tenneco and Toyota Boshoku to name but a few, but many staff across the country struggled even to travel to work as trains, buses, underground and air services, all ground to a halt.

"We find this is a political strike against the government - we feel our companies are only the victims," said Verschraegen. "But we have a loss of EUR50m - it is very hard for our companies to cure that.

"They predict in Belgium we have zero growth for 2012 - this strike does not help. It will make it only worse."