Unions representing pilots for Brussels Airlines have threatened two more days of strikes in June, following the breakdown of talks with management after two strike days this week. Striking pilots on Monday and Wednesday this week saw the cancellation of 75% of all Brussels Airlines flights, although most passengers were accommodated by a combination of refunds, re-booking or seats on flights by other airlines. Pilots are protesting at changes to working hours, conditions and retirement conditions.
Management and unions met on Wednesday to discuss their differences, but 15 hours of negotiations failed to reach an agreement, and unions have now left on the table a threat to shut down services on two days in June if no progress is made. June is not a peak time, but the danger will be if the impasse continues, and the dispute drags on into July, when the airline’s traffic booms as families fly off during the school holidays.
According to one spokesperson for the pilots’ union Setca, management had failed to make any conciliatory move. “Their latest proposal was even worse than the one that led pilots to stop work this week,” Anita Van Hoof said. “It would have been impossible to present that to the pilots.”
At the end of the meeting, Brussels Airlines president Etienne Davignon expressed optimism. Both sides were intent on reaching an agreement, he said. “Everyone is disappointed now, because we didn’t get as far as we had hoped.” That no agreement was reached is not, he said, a sign of a fundamental dispute. “The unions see and recognise that we have the will and the ability to resolve the questions which remain open.”