In the Dutch part of luchtzak.be, I've posted a reply to a court judgement from Tuesday 27th March 2007. Indeed, without hearing Brussels Airlines, a Labour Court decided in favour of the trade unions that the latest decrease from 40 to 30 minutes is against the general labour agreement. My comment:
After the bankruptcy of Sabena, a limited number of Belgian leading companies and banks have founded a new airline: they've invested 145 mio euro's, and even foreigners will probably know some of the investors: Electrabel, Tractebel, Solvay, UCB, BIAC, Fortis, BBL-ING, Dexia, KBC.
Tuesday's court order makes them furious, and will put a hold on further investments into Brussels Airlines. And investments are needed, as the Brussels Airlines fleet is aging and aging (example: the Bae's are 16 to 17 years old).
Tuesday's Labourt Court order was a unilateral request by just one party involved, without the other party even invited to court (the legal term in Dutch is "eenzijdig verzoekschrift in kortgeding"). Brussels Airlines will now appeal against that verdict, and the Appeal Labour Court will then rule that the dispute about the 10 minutes is a strategic decision regarding the company's management, operations and productivity, and thus a sole decision for the Board of Directors. There's no salary decrease with the 10 minutes cut, there's no change in foreign accommodation standards, there's no cut in allowances, ...
After Tuesday’s court action, there are 2 parties at Brussels Airlines: us and them. It's not "our company" anymore. I think management will drop the new 30 minutes rule after the new Labour Court verdict allows it, but the damage by the trade union's action has been done. Imagine that your company has invested millions into an airline, and a major part of it’s staff takes you to court because you want to become more competitive. You then ask your accountant what the return on investment is, and he/she tells you “only 0,95%” Your bookkeeper then adds that you would have earned 5 times more if you would have kept the money on your bank account.
That is what happened today: people who have invested 145 mio euro's have been insulted by the trade unions. Will they still invest for a fleet renewal? I doubt it.
A second disaster for Brussels Airlines is that six years of hard working has been extremely damaged. Virgin and SN Brussels Airlines were good brands, but check out the Belgian newspapers: last weeks actions made that letters to the editor now mention "Sabena-bis". And with “Sabena" they mean the "let's-go-on-strike" attitude at Sabena during it's last months.
Troubles at Brussels Airlines? For sure...