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Unions hope to find solution as FedEx threatens job losses at Liège and Zaventem
Unions hope to find a solution to reduce the number of layoffs carried out by US freight carrier FedEx in Belgium, representatives said on Wednesday after a meeting with the Walloon government. Currently, 671 jobs are at risk in Liège - and a further 47 at Brussels Airport in Zaventem.
"We were worried for a few dozen workers because the daytime activity at the airport was lower than what we have seen in recent years," explained Thierry Grignard, president of FGTB Metal Liège-Luxembourg. "But a restructuring of the workforce of this magnitude, we didn't expect it at all."
"Our goal is to find a common strategy with the Walloon government,” he added. “The Renault law may allow us to reduce the number of layoffs and we must also check whether certain activities could remain in Liège."
The Renault Law refers to a Belgian labour law of 13 February 1998 related to collective redundancies. It imposes a legally mandatory consultation period when an employer intends to proceed with a collective redundancy, as well as specific termination indemnity. The term has its origins in a controversial mass layoff in 1997 at a Renault's Vilvoorde factory.
If the negotiations don't move in the right direction, Grignard warned, the unions could explore other options. "It's too early to talk about it because we want to prioritise negotiations in a bid to save jobs,” he said. “But if there is no agreement, we will look to attract other operators. Liège Airport is recognised as one of the best in the world in terms of transport. If FedEx doesn't like it any more, we'll look elsewhere."
FedEx announced its intention to cut 671 jobs at its Liege air hub in a statement on Tuesday. The plan would also result in a change in the hours worked for 861 other staff at the Liège site.
According to the statement, the company's objective is to "resize its European workforce in the run-up to the finalisation of the integration of the TNT network" acquired in 2016.
"Proposals to remedy the duplication of jobs, resulting from the operation of these two vast European networks that connect similar geographical areas, were presented (on Tuesday) to representatives of European employees and teams," the FedEx statement explained.
The overall impact on the European workforce will result in job losses for 5,500 to 6,300 people in operational teams and in support functions, according to the carrier. The "proposal" lays out plans for Liège to continue functioning as a secondary hub in Central Europe, with Roissy-Charles De Gaulle in Paris taking on the role of the main hub.