Belgian air traffic bound to be disturbed again: "There will be more industrial action"

If you have booked a flight to or from Belgium in the coming days or weeks, beware: the social conflict at air traffic controllers Skeyes still hasn't been resolved, despite an accord that was presented on Friday. 

The social conflict at Skeyes has been going on for months now. In a nutshell: air traffic controllers are complaining about work pressure and demand more staff. In yesterday's accord, the management agreed to shorter shifts, but employees argue that this will not solve the root of the problem. The social trades union approved the deal, but hardly has any members among Skeyes staff. The Christian and liberal trades union rejected the accord.  

This work demands the highest concentration. We can no longer cope

A couple of employees agreed to grant an interview to the VRT. Speaking anonymously, one man said that "staff are completely worn-out. We are being pressurised to keep on working and we are exhausted." Staff have to keep the utmost concentration for hours on end and can no longer cope, they say. The man added that "if I ask my children what they want to become later, they say "nothing to do with air traffic". Doesn't that say enough?"  

The burden gets too heavy because of the successive shifts. "Sometimes we work 26 to 27 days per month, of which up to 12 successive days. The breaks are short and the pace is fast." Staff say they should actually have 104 employees, and underline they have 75 at present. "So yes, you could say we are understaffed."  

This is not a strike

There is bound to be more action in the coming weeks. However, employees refuse to talk about a  strike: "We are not downing tools, we are just taking our legal breaks," says one employee. "It would be completely crazy to label this as a strike.". Air traffic controllers are entitled to 8 days of rest each month, but due to staff shortage this often impossible. 

"The proposals which are now on the table are unacceptable. There will be more action, I am sure", one employee said. 

Management hopes unions will change their mind

Earlier, the management had defended the deal. CEO Johan Decuyper denies that this new accord would not tackle the fundamental problems, and hopes he can still convince unions to accept it. The deal includes working weeks of 32 hours instead of 35, and night shifts of 8 hours instead of 10.