Trade unions were surprised on Tuesday to hear that Belgium’s federal government had not been informed of the details of Brussels Airlines’ restructuring plan.
The airline announced on Tuesday morning that it planned to cut its workforce by 25%, shrink its fleet by 30% and scrap over a dozen destinations as a result of the coronavirus crisis.
The airline’s trade unions met Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès, Minister of Finance Alexander De Croo and Minister of Economy and Employment Nathalie Muylle on Tuesday.
The ministers should shortly meet with company management and ask for clear guarantees from Lufthansa (Brussels Airlines’ parent company) amid state aid negotiations, the unions said.
Muylle was not informed of the launch of a Renault procedure (a dialogue between management and workers’ representatives) for collective redundancies, although she should normally be informed, said Didier Lebbe, permanent secretary of the National Central of Employees (CNE).
“It seems that Lufthansa is being very hard in the negotiations based on the explanations given to us by Minister De Croo,” the representative of the Christian trade union said. According to him, the government is wondering how it can be sure that the German group’s commitments will be respected if the Belgian state grants €290 million in state aid.
“Relations with the Germans don’t seem very good,” said his Flemish counterpart Paul Buekenhout of the ACV Puls union. “There are contacts but it’s not going well. We don’t have months left to go.”
According to the trade unions, the State will continue negotiations with Lufthansa, trying to get as many written guarantees for the future as possible, in particular concerning the status of Brussels Airport as a hub for the Belgian company, or the arrival in the medium term of more modern and more environmentally friendly aircraft.
A meeting with Lufthansa boss Carsten Spohr could still take place this week in Brussels, workers’ representatives predicted. However, they believe that Lufthansa will first need to strike a deal with the German government, with whom Lufthansa is in talks for €9 billion in state aid. The quid quo pro for that aid, an entry by the German government into the group’s capital, reportedly does not at all please Lufthansa’s boss.
“In any case, we must be kept informed of the progress of the negotiations with the Belgian State,” insisted Filip Lemberechts, permanent secretary of the liberal trade union CGSLB/ACLVB.
“They have not promised us anything today and they are asking us to continue to negotiate with the management of Brussels Airlines”, Lebbe said.
The Brussels Times