Strike action at Brussels Airlines on Monday?

The Brussels Airlines flight schedule could be disrupted as from Monday morning as pilots are considering taking strike action. They are unhappy about a number of things, including the management's plans to force older pilots to take early retirement. Geert Sciot of Brussels Airlines is surprised.

The pilots are at loggerheads with the management, claiming they don't stick to the agreements worked out in the restructuring plan "Beyond 2012-2013". A meeting intended to solve the dispute, did not bring the different players closer together.

The pilots are unhappy about their holiday schedule and about temporary contracts for pilots above 58. Trades unions claim that this is going against earlier deals that were worked out to cuts cost and increase productivity. Under that agreement, it had been promised to keep everyone in their jobs, they say. 

Thierry Vuchelen of the liberal trades union says that passengers should take into account possible disruptions as from 5.30am tomorrow. As the pilots could be downing tools, flights could be delayed or even cancelled. However, it is not clear how big the impact will be and how long the strike could last.

Paul Buekenhout of the Christian trades union explains that "we are not talking about a general strike. However, it's very well possible that some pilots may refuse to take off." He adds that the discontentment is huge, and that it's now up to the management to make a move. 

Brussels Airlines spokesman "surprised"

Geert Sciot, the spokesman for Brussels Airlines, reacts with disbelief. "We are surprised. We thought we had good news for the pilots."

Mr Sciot explains that Brussels Airlines received 50 million euros from Lufthansa after working out the "Beyond 2012-2013" deal. "This cash had to be used for new investments, but at the same time productivity levels had to go up. We agreed with the pilots that they would work less during two years: 85% the first year and 90% the second year. However, thanks to the excellent figures, pilots will already be able to return to a 100% as from January."

About the retirement, he admitted that pilots had been asked to stop at the age of 58 to make room for younger colleagues. "Pilots can have a normal pension at 58 and have the right to retire, unlike in other professions. Isn't it logical that we ask them to step aside?"