Eight out of ten workers from the airline, Ryanair, are striking on Wednesday at Brussels Airport. Hans Elsen, the Secretary of the Christian trade union, LBC-NVK has indicated the issue. As part of its remit, the organization represents Dutch-speaking individuals in Flanders and Brussels, who are private sector employees and managers (its French-speaking equivalent, covering Brussels and Wallonia, is the CNE).
Mr Elsen explains, “There is high mobilization for the strike. Some 80% of workers are striking today and will do so again tomorrow.” Four employees wished to work on Wednesday morning, and left on a flight bound for Lisbon. The trade unionist stresses, “The operation of a flight from and to Berlin was able to be guaranteed using a German crew, as there are no strikes in Germany today.” He goes on, “For the flight to Palma, we will have to see if there are sufficient Belgian staff for take-off.”
Moreover the LBC-NVK has learned that 25 Polish workers were sent to Brussels to make up for the staff shortages. Mr Elsen said, “We do not agree with this means of resolution. To us it is a 19th century practice. History tells us that, at that time, British dockers were recruited during a strike in the Port of Antwerp.” He went on, “The practice does not comply with Belgian and international agreements and we have lodged a complaint with the Social Inspectorate.”
Mr Elsen says that the Polish workers are working for a Ryanair subcontractor. They are therefore legally not working for the same company. He pursues, “We note that in the absence of an active union, collective and social protection mechanisms disappear almost immediately.” The trade union leader further adds, “This shows that the trade unions are just as important now as they were in the 19th century.”
Ryanair staff in Belgium, Spain, Portugal and Italy are on strike today. They are demanding better working conditions and compliance with national employment legislation.