A new air pocket on the horizon? Strike at Roissy, shortage of staff in European airports, mobilization in low-cost companies in Italy… Air transport is facing a feverish outbreak of its employees who are mobilizing for their working conditions, threatening to seize up the resumption of sector. After two years of the Covid-19 pandemic and the virtual shutdown of air traffic in Europe, companies and airports find themselves helpless in the face of the massive and sudden return of travelers
The recovery in traffic is expected to reach up to 95% of its 2019 level this summer, according to Eurocontrol. Problem: after having carried out departure plans with a vengeance to get through the pandemic, companies in the sector are encountering great difficulty in recruiting, increasing the pressure on employees who are struggling to keep up.
Mayhem in Amsterdam and Frankfurt
“We warned at the start of the crisis that we should not fire everyone, because when it resumes, we would have trouble”, reminds AFP Livia Spera, general secretary of the European Federation of workers. transport (ETF). “Governments have given aid to companies to overcome the crisis, but there has been no social counterpart,” she lamented. For the FO union, “the chaos suffered for several weeks by employees working on the many airport platforms in France and Europe is intolerable”.
In Paris, the staff of Roissy airport, one of the largest in Europe, therefore decided to go on strike this Thursday to demand a salary increase of 300 euros “unconditionally, for all”. The companies were forced to cancel a hundred flights, or a quarter of the program scheduled for the morning. So far, CDG has been rather a good student compared to Amsterdam-Schiphol or Frankfurt airports, where staff shortages have led to the cancellation of hundreds of flights and monster queues have angered travellers. In the UK, hundreds of flights were canceled last week for the same reason, just ahead of Queen Elizabeth II’s Jubilee and as a busy summer season looks to be ahead. Britain’s main union, Unite, also staged a five-day strike in April among baggage handlers at Luton Airport and is threatening to do the same at British Airways this summer.
And the train too?
Air transport is “paying the price for mass layoffs during the pandemic period,” Unite denounced in a statement. “The consequences are now chronic understaffing” and until companies improve wages and working conditions, “the delays, cancellations and chaos will continue,” promises the union. Low-cost companies like Ryanair, which is doing well, are not spared. In Italy, two unions announced a 4-hour strike on Wednesday in the Irish company to demand better wages or denounce its refusal to grant compulsory rest days this summer.
Same thing at Volotea or Easyjet. These movements have led to the cancellation of 360 flights in Italy, according to the transport manager of the UIL trade union confederation Claudio Tarlazzi, quoted by the AGI agency. “Workers have shown a lot of understanding” during the pandemic by agreeing to lower their wages or giving up days off, insists Livia Spera. “Now there is a lack of availability (of the bosses) to negotiate improvements,” she adds, also citing rail or urban public transport as sectors concerned.
Rail transport is also beginning to be hit by social movements, such as in the United Kingdom, where the biggest train strike in more than thirty years is being prepared, between June 21 and 25, to demand better wages and working conditions.
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