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Customs officers increase checks in protest at working conditions

Illustration picture shows checks being carried out at a customs control zone at Brussels Airport, in Zaventem. (BELGA PHOTO THIERRY ROGE)
06:08 01/07/2021

Customs officers will carry out a work-to-rule at Belgium’s various passenger airports on Thursday as they condemn what they describe as an excessively rigid way of working and a lack of staff.

Staff at Zaventem, Antwerp (Deurne), Kortrijk-Wevelgem and Ostend airports will all take part in the protest, although officials at Charleroi airport are not expected to join the action. However, unions have warned that Charleroi’s time will come.

Increasing the duration, level and number of checks at these airports is the best way for customs officers to make their point, according to Jean-François Lemaire, federal secretary of the CGSP Amio union. "We are aware that our actions sometimes get bad press from the general public, but this is the type of action that best suits customs officers,” he said. “In addition, checks are carried out on return, at airports, which should not stop the flow of departures too much."

Customs officials have been asking the authorities for improved working conditions and regulations for several weeks, but their appeal remains unanswered. On Wednesday, they carried out similar actions in the port of Antwerp and on Thursday, the first day of the school holidays, they will be very scrupulous in their checks at airports.

In addition to the working action in Belgium that could cause some disruption, holidaymakers taking flights from the Parisian airports of Roissy-Charles-de-Gaulle and Orly over the coming weekend could face problems on the roads around the hubs and delays on certain flights due to planned strike action.

According to the unions involved, it is not clear as yet how many staff at these airports will go on strike and to what extent the action, taken in protest over changes to employment contracts, will affect flights on the first weekend of major holiday departures.

Written by Nick Amies