Baggage handlers strike at Brussels Airport

Summary

Aviapartner stopped work yesterday in protest at pay not yet received following special assignments in the wake of March’s terrorist attacks

“Enough is enough”

Unions representing personnel of baggage handlers Aviapartner at Brussels Airport have been strongly criticised after a one-day strike that affected flights out of Zaventem yesterday. The situation has, meanwhile, returned to normal.

Their demands included mileage payments for staff who were assigned to other airports while Brussels was closed following the 22 March bomb attacks. The payments were promised but apparently not yet delivered. “We have reached an agreement we find we can defend, and obtained everything we asked for,” said Bjorn Vanden Eynde of the ACV-Transcom union.

Unions also complain of the company’s attitude. “Since the attacks, staff have shown an enormous flexibility in helping get the airport back on track,” a union representative said. But Aviapartner CEO Laurent Levaux “hasn’t even taken the trouble to offer a word of thanks”. Aviapartner is one of two baggage handlers at Zaventem, together with Swissport.

Actions like that of Aviapartner, which handles 30% of the baggage passing through Brussels Airport, put the credibility of the airport in jeopardy, according to airport CEO Arnaud Feist. “Enough is enough,” he said at a press conference. “At some point, the airport will simply go bust. Everyone has to realise that the airport is in a very vulnerable position following the attacks in March. The image, which has been damaged, needs to be repaired. That means an effort from everyone involved.”

Since the attacks less than two months ago, the airport has also suffered from industrial action by police unions and air traffic controllers. As a result of yesterday’s action, 32 flights were cancelled and three were diverted. “Airlines have to choose whether to depart without baggage or to depart late,” an airport spokesperson explained.

Photo: Bruno Fahy/BELGA