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Air traffic control unions threaten strike action

Illustration picture shows the Skeyes control tower at Brussels International Airport, Zaventem. (BELGA PHOTO YORICK JANSENS)
13:10 17/12/2020

Three trade unions at Skeyes, the air traffic control company which operates at Brussels Airport and at the airports of Antwerp, Charleroi, Kortrijk, Liège, and Ostend, have filed a strike notice after requests to management over working conditions seemingly fell on deaf ears.

“We ask a lot of questions but don't get any answers," Laurent Malengreau of the socialist union CGSP said on Wednesday.

The unions are complaining not only about the lack of response after discussions with the Skeyes hierarchy, which included the renegotiation of measures related to the Covid-19 pandemic, but also about the way the discussions have been conducted. "For example, we ask to get the documents a week before a meeting, but they keep giving them to us at the last minute of a meeting," Malengreau said.

The trade unions accept that they are aware that any action their members take would be bad news for the aviation sector, which has already been hit hard by the health crisis. "But we don't really have any other option," the CGSP trade unionist said.

Depending on the procedure, strike action can only take place two weeks after the notice has been filed and therefore a strike can still be avoided. "We still believe in social consultation and hope that the management can also be convinced of this," says Kurt Callaerts of the ACV Transcom union. A first attempt at conciliation is planned for Friday.

Skeyes air traffic controllers manage over 3,000 aircraft every day, which makes up over a million flight movements per year. The autonomous public company is therefore an important player in one of the busiest and most complex sections of airspace on the continent.

Written by Nick Amies