One week ago, Brussels Airlines was warning of the cancellation of 28 of the flights due to take off from Brussels Airport on 13 February, the day of a national strike called by private sector unions. Yesterday the airline announced it had cancelled all flights on that day – a total of 222, with some 16,000 passengers affected. Meanwhile charter and scheduled flights by TUI and TUIfly into and out of Belgium will instead depart from and land at airports in the Netherlands and France, the airline said. Flights are affected by the strike of support staff at airports and air traffic control, rather than airline staff themselves. Passengers will be taken to and from their replacement airports by bus.
Brussels Airlines passengers with flights booked for Wednesday will not only have to make last-minute changes to their plans, they can also forget any idea of compensation for the flight cancellations, according to consumer organisation Test-Achats.
Passengers will be offered an alternative flight on another day, or can demand a refund of their ticket price, but there is no question of compensation, the organisation told De Standaard. The reason: Brussels Airlines is the victim of force majeure. Its flights are being cancelled as a result of factors outwith the airline’s own control.
The strike was triggered by the collapse of talks in the Group of Ten between unions and employers, on the subject of pay. The increase over the next two years set by employers was too low for the unions to accept, and they left the negotiating table.
Those talks involve private sector employers and employees. However the strike has now been joined by public sector unions, who would appear to have no horse in this particular race.
“Pay discussions in the private sector have no direct impact on the public sector, but we cannot deny that we are extremely unhappy about the way things are going, especially as far as wages are concerned,” commented Luc Hamelinck of the Christian union ACV to the VRT.
The strike now includes all public transport nationally and in the three regions; workers at ports, airports and air traffic control; police and prison officers; teachers, who have either received a call to take part or been assured they will be covered if they choose to join the strike; postal workers and staff at the Flemish public broadcaster VRT.
“From the federal finance ministry to the national employment office, the whole country will come to a standstill,” promised Gino Hoppe of the socialist union ACOD.