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Workers' action disrupts Sabena flights

Belgian workers are concerned about Sabena's plans

(Keystone Archive)

The Belgian carrier, Sabena, cancelled more than 80 European flights on Wednesday after thousands of workers went on strike in protest against the company's refusal to discuss details of its restructuring plans.

A spokesman for Sabena - which is half-owned by Swissair - said the flights were cancelled after workers in cleaning, catering and baggage control downed tools on Wednesday morning. The airline said it was re-routing passengers to other airlines and added that none of its intercontinental flights was affected.

A spokeswoman for the Christian Democratic Union said that up to 6,000 staff had gone on strike to protest against management's refusal to discuss its programme before a meeting scheduled for Thursday. The workers want an earlier meeting because Belgian newspapers reported leaked details of the plan on Tuesday.

The newspapers said Sabena was planning to slash 2,000 jobs as part of the reorganisation, sell off some of its fleet and cancel some of its routes.

Swissair has a 49.5 per cent stake in the airline and recently re-negotiated an agreement that would have seen it increase its stake to 85 per cent once a transport agreement with the European Union was ratified.

Swissair's chairman, Mario Corti, argued that the company's financial position made such an increase impossible. Swissair itself has embarked on a major business overhaul after posting losses of SFr2.9 billion last year.

After bitter negotiations with the Belgian government, which owns the rest of Sabena, Swissair agreed to contribute to a further investment of SFr645 million. In return, it has been released from its commitment to increase its holding. Belgium has also dropped the threat of legal action.

swissinfo with agencies


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