Unions representing cabin crew at Brussels Airlines issued a strike notice for an “indefinite period” on Thursday, 16 November. The notice takes effect on Thursday, 23 November, meaning that a strike can take place at any time from Thursday onwards. However, unions have hinted at a walk-out during the Christmas and New Year holiday period.
“A strike over Christmas is an option. This isn’t nice for passengers. However, it isn’t the fault of staff, but rather the fault of the employer. Sadly, sometimes this is the only option”, said Jolinde Defieuw, of the ACV Puls trade union.
There is a great deal of frustration among staff. Pressure of work and a lack of rest remain, while at the same time complaints are minimalised.Jolinde Defieuw, ACV Puls
Both ACV Puls and CNE, the main unions in Belgium, have put forward several problems with the management of the airline that have left employees dissatisfied with the working conditions. Two of the issues are similar to those also highlighted by Ryanair staff during their multiple strikes in Belgium this year: overworking and unfair wages.
According to the unions, despite having the most profitable summer ever, Brussels Airlines still pays lower salaries agreed on in 2020, when the airline, affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, had to go through restructuring.
However, the “immediate trigger” of the strike notice was the publishing of the rosters for the upcoming season without consultation with union representatives, which, according to the unions, is in breach of their collective labour agreement. Moreover, the airline also unilaterally changed the requirements that need to be met for someone to be promoted the Cabin Chief, or Chief Steward, position.
Unlike Ryanair, whose CEO, Michael O’Leary, responded to the pilots’ strikes by threatening to leave Belgium, or not responding at all, Brussels Airlines is taking a more complaisant approach, the airline’s management telling Aviation24.be it “remains resolute in finding long-term solutions to maintain its attractiveness as an employer while controlling costs in a highly competitive market”. The airline said it is willing to sit down with union representatives, hoping to find “constructive solutions” for both sides, however, no date has yet been set for the conciliation meetings.