Military to replace sick air traffic controllers?

Flemish mobility minister Ben Weyts (Flemish nationalist) has suggested that military air traffic controllers should be used when too many civilian air traffic controllers report in sick and air traffic faces disruption.  In recent days air traffic has been at a standstill at night due to a shortage of civilian air traffic controllers at the Belgian air traffic control agency Skeyes.

“We can’t allow our airports, our economy and our holidaymakers to be taken hostage by air traffic controllers who say they are ill.  Everybody has the right to protest against matters in industry, but this you do in all openness and using existing procedures.  You don’t sabotage matters by falsely reporting in sick.”

Mr Weyts suggests that if social mediators don’t make a breakthrough the defence department could hold military air traffic controllers at the ready, who could be deployed if need be. 

Ben Weyts: “The government can’t deploy the army to break strikes, but here we are talking about air traffic controllers who are ill.”

The military union ACMP has labelled Mr Weyts’s proposal “unrealistic” because the defence department is already battling a shortage of air traffic controllers. A union spokesman spoke of “election fever” and suggested military air traffic controllers may not possess identical qualifications to their civilian brethren.