A strike by sea pilots whose job it is to bring ships from the North Sea in the port of Antwerp has been avoided, after unions reached an agreement with Flemish minister for administrative affairs Liesbeth Homans. The pilots come under the banner of civil servants, but have different terms and conditions from others.
As The Brussels Times reported earlier, the pilots had threatened an indeterminate strike, which on its first day had left three cargo ships stranded in the port, while others were stranded at sea waiting to be piloted into the harbour.
The compromise reached with Homans consists in the creation of a working group which will come together on a weekly basis, with the first meeting due to take place on Monday next week. Unions will form part of the group, and will be able to make proposals of their own.
The proposals now on the table would see civil servants employed as permanent and as contractual brought more closely together, with statutory employees losing some of their generous conditions. Staff on long-term sick leave, for example longer than 30 days – would see their pay cut to 65% of normal.
“We are suspending our planned actions,” said ACV union representative Isle Remy. “The government is prepared to come to the table with us and is ready to make changes to its plan. The degree of margin for discussion was never clear for us. But now at least the promise is there.”