Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Wildcat strike lands body blow to Swissport management and its airline clients. The real stress is on stranded passengers.

Brussels Airport: A baggage strike by Swissport employees strands thousands of passengers.

by Tom Thorne, Brugge Belgium, 14 May 2013

Sunday 12 April 2013 was an interesting day at Brussels Airport. The baggage handlers working for Swissport decided to pull a wild cat strike throwing the airport into a logistical nightmare of not being able to load any bags or unload passenger luggage without long waits.

Admittedly I have a bias in all of this. I am a Jet Airways customer and I was scheduled to return to Canada from Belgium on their flight 230 on 14 May. It never happened. My wife and I spent 205 Euros getting our two large bags, and ourselves with hand luggage to the airport . When we arrived we could not check our bags and so we returned to Brugge. We are lucky we are back with relatives hoping that before Thursday we will see a resolution to the strike.

While we were at the airport we experienced one spark of hope. An employee of Jet Airways told us that if we could lug our bags and hand luggage through security they would be loaded by employees of the airline on the tarmac.  My wife and I said we would give it a try. This proved to be false hope although we were in a joyous line believing that we would get a boarding pass for a promising five minutes.

The airline stated it could not accept baggage with no baggage handling in place and so we were saddled with a decision they gave us to rebook or perhaps even abandon our luggage if we wanted to go home to Canada today. The airline would take no responsibility for our bags. We took the rebook option for Thursday 16 May when hopefully this strike will be over. If it's not over then we are stuck in Belgium until it is or until Jet Airways gets us out in some way, a probability being weighed according to a Jet Airways source I spoke to today.

Airline employees were seen moving checked luggage from Monday 13 May to another location on a small cart. Back and forth they went with large loads of checked bags that went no where when their owners flew out. When will these bags be delivered? No one could say and they were now a problem to store.

The striking employees are negotiating with their employer Swissport a large multifaceted company based in Zurich that provides airlines with ground and cargo services. Examining their website media releases for some word about the strike, readers are met with their awards they received as a "leader" in their field. There is no mention of their current deadlocked negotiations with their union at Brussels Airport.  Today I contacted them by email for a statement. At time of publication I have no answer.

To this point in time the Belgian Government is no where to be seen intervening in this strike. Knowledgeable Belgians I know tell me that the government and unions are topics that are highly political and that government action will be perhaps be not visible because of potential political fallout.

If that is so then the union has a lot of aces to play and this strike could be prolonged. That would call into effect the government's responsibility to act for the greater good of the public and  the reputation of Belgium as a tourist location.  In addition, Belgium  needs to seen as a good place to do business. A country where labour and management are more in balance and not so polarized as they are in this case.

The story continues.

© Copyright 2013, Tom Thorne, All Rights Reserved

1 comment:

  1. Belgian television news holds the view that the strike will drag on through the week. That means the airlines must now go to other more radical solutions to serve their customers. Busing them to other airports with their baggage would be a good idea. Let''s get that rolling.