2 August 2013 – ITF-affiliated union ACV/CSC TRANSCOM declared strike action may go ahead if Belgian airport privatisation ignores workers’ demands. When French company Egis takes over Ostend and Antwerp airports at the beginning of 2014, over 200 airport workers stand to lose out directly. Privatisation will have an indirect affect on over 2300 workers, the Belgian National Bank estimates.
When the union learnt about state plans to privatise regional airports in June, members took initial action to ensure existing standards were maintained. Egis, the only interested party, promised to respect all existing labour and working conditions. The government vowed to search for alternate work for those not transferring to Egis. However, the union was concerned at the time that little preparation had been done for the transfer of ownership; further, that neither employer noremployee organisations were involved in negotiations.
ACV/CSC TRANSOM still had unanswered questions about the deal when Egis formally won the contract on 22 July. The union questions if government subsidies to Egis are European Commission compliant – and whether the Egis-linked company Thales wants to acquire Belgium’s air traffic management provision.
Kurt Callaerts, national representative for the aviation and public maritime sectors at ACV/CSC TRANSCOM, said that the biggest remaining question was whether privatization would really save the Belgian taxpayer money, and if employment with good contracts and conditions were maintained. All ITF affiliates in Belgium are concerned about the broader implications of this deal for employment conditions and staffing in the transport sector.
The union has invited Egis to start negotiating terms before the end of the year. If Egis don’t accept this invitation, then union members are ready to act.
ITF civil aviation and tourism services section secretary Gabriel Mocho Rodriguez said: “Now is a great time for Egis to create a strong working environment through negotiating with its workers. We hope that Egis accepts the demands of ACV/CSC TRANSCOM, negotiates a fair agreement and that industrial action is unnecessary;however, if action goes ahead, the union has our full support”.