[Coronavirus] European Commission proposes €3.7 million to support nearly 1,500 airport workers dismissed by Swissport in Belgium

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Today, the European Commission proposes to support close to 1,500 former workers of the aviation services company Swissport Belgium, who lost their jobs due to the impact of the coronavirus crisis on air transport activities. The proposed €3.7 million from the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund (EGF) will help those people find new jobs through further education or training, or support them to start their own business.

Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights, Nicolas Schmit, said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has had a dramatic impact on air transport and related services. With the €3.7 million from the EGF proposed today, we are showing solidarity with almost 1,500 former workers of Swissport Belgium. The financing will go towards support measures to help them adapt their skills to new job opportunities or start their own business.”

When Belgium and many other countries imposed restrictive measures last year to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, the traffic of passenger planes at Brussels airport came to a halt. This caused great difficulties for air carriers and companies operating at the airport, and some of them had to close down. Swissport Belgium, one of the two ground handlers at Brussels Airport, was declared bankrupt three months after the activities at the airport stopped, and its 1,468 workers lost their employment.

Belgium applied for EGF support to help the dismissed workers in getting back into work, in particular those with no professional qualifications or a low level of education.

The measures co-financed by the EGF range from job-searching advice to apprenticeships, vocational training and other educational opportunities like language and ICT training, as well as support to start a business. Participants may receive additional incentives. This includes a bonus for breaking gender stereotypes when workers of the lesser represented gender opt for vocational training for significantly gender-unbalanced jobs. The regional employment services in Belgium will help the workers to arrange tailor-made trainings, mentoring and job-matching assistance.

The total estimated cost of the support measures is €6.2 million, of which the EGF will provide €3.7 million. The Belgian regional authorities will finance the remaining amount.

The Commission’s proposal will need to be approved by the European Parliament and the Council.

Background

Belgium imposed restrictive measures on 18 March 2020 to contain the COVID-19 pandemic. The impact was immediately felt by the air carriers and companies operating at Brussels Airport, as the movements of passenger planes stopped almost completely.

After three months of inactivity, Swissport and Aviapartner, the two ground handlers at Brussels Airport, were significantly impacted, with revenues of both companies down by 95% from their pre-pandemic revenues. Swissport was declared bankrupt on 9 June 2020, one week before the scheduled relaunch of European flights at Brussels Airport, and all its 1,468 workers lost their jobs.

Since 2007, the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund has been providing support to people losing their jobs or self-employed whose activities have ceased as a result of major structural changes in world trade patterns due to globalisation, e.g. when a large company shuts down or production is moved outside the EU, or as a result of the global economic and financial crisis.

So far, the Fund has received 169 applications. Some €656 million have been requested to offer help to more than 161,000 workers and more than 4,400 young people not in employment, education or training in 21 Member States. Measures supported by the EGF come in addition to national active labour market measures.

In 2021-2027, the EGF will continue to show solidarity and support workers and self-employed whose activity has been lost, while shifting the focus from the cause of restructuring to its impact. Under the new rules, all reasons for restructuring, including the economic effects of the coronavirus crisis, as well as larger economic trends like decarbonisation and automation, can be eligible for support. A political agreement on the future EGF has been reached. The agreement has been approved by the Council and will be voted on by the European Parliament later today.

Press release 27 April 2021 Brussels

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