Swissport baggage handlers strike at Brussels Airport

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The staff of the airport handling company Swissport have stopped work on Friday morning at Brussels Airport

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Staff at the airport handling company Swissport have stopped work on Friday morning at Brussels Airport, as we learned from the operator of the airport and the UBT-FGTB union. The understaffing is at the origin of this movement.

A spontaneous action

One week ago the socialist union filed a strike notice for the handlers, of which it represents 65% at Brussels Airport. It was followed by other worker representative organizations.

A conciliation meeting was held on Wednesday, after which the unions met the management of Swissport on Thursday. It has agreed to hire some workers. “But only to replace sick staff members now,” laments Sandra Langenus, secretary of UBT for Brussels and Flemish Brabant, which states that the movement was not organized by the unions but spontaneously by workers.

Brussels Airport is currently analyzing the practical consequences from the strike for travellers. According to the VRT, a number of flights now depart without passengers’ baggage.

Brussels Airport offers to act as mediator

Arnaud Feist, CEO of Brussels Airport, said Friday morning he regrets the strike at the airport handling company Swissport. He calls on unions and management to gather around the negotiating table. Arnaud Feist hopes that both sides can quickly agree. “If necessary, we will play the role of mediator, as we did three years ago,” he said.

We knew for weeks that there were tensions between management and workers’ representatives at Swissport. It is unfortunate that they were unable to reach an agreement to avoid the strike,” laments the CEO. Friday’s action is linked to a shortage of staff, explained the unions.

Due to the movement currently underway, flights of airlines working with Swissport (of which in particular Aer Lingus, Alitalia, Lufthansa, Ryanair, Thomas Cook, and Brussels Airlines), often start late and/or without hold baggage. Brussels Airport therefore invites passengers to take only a carry-on. There is however no disturbance on the side of Aviapartner, the other airport handling company active in Brussels, and for flights for which this company is responsible.

Negotiations but no agreement

The negotiations that took place Friday morning between unions and management of Swissport have not resulted in an agreement. The spontaneous strike therefore continues until a new meeting of a conciliation board under the Joint Committee to 14:00 in Brussels, as we have learned from the secretary of the ACV union Bjorn Vanden Eynde.

The aircraft loading team was the first to stop work before being followed by the cleaning team. “Certainly the people in charge of baggage will join the movement,” warns Bjorn Vanden Eynde.

The union believes that Swissport has not provided enough extra staff for the holiday and did not change enough part-time contracts into full-time contracts. According to ACV, the hiring of at least 20 full-time employees, distributed in the various enterprise services at Brussels Airport, is necessary for the summer. A request which faces a deaf ear from the management, says Bjorn Vanden Eynde.

Source: Belga, RTBF, VRT

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