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Sabena: The Right To Strike?

Sat Sep 08, 2001 6:33 pm

Employees have had to fight a long time to get the right to strike, both in Belgium and in a lot of other countries. I support strongly the fact that people strike when their rights are violated or in case of bad management.

Sabena's management has made big mistakes in the past. Although his intentions where probably more than good, Reutlinger (Sabena's former CEO) was too ambitious. He had no eye for the balance, with today's catastrophy as a result. But not only Reutlinger, a lot of his predecessors, not in the least the Belgian government, share the responsibility for Sabena 's current unhealthy situation.

Müller was invited to fix the problems. When he accepted, he had no idea about how bad the situation was. Quite soon, he knew what an almost impossible job was waiting for him. Months and months, he worked with the best people on a Business Plan, resulting in one of the most detailed and well argumented I have ever seen. I wonder whether anyone else is able to give a better plan for Sabena.

The pilots, however, do not want to see this. At this moment, they, and after the suit of Friday also the unions, are indeed playing with Sabena's future. I sometimes wonder whether the unions think Müller cuts the number of jobs for his pleasure. I do not understand that the unions and the pilots don't see that this time it is necesarry to follow the plan and to accept the loss of 1400 jobs. If they do not follow, not just 1400 jobs (2000 people involved) will loose their job, but 12000.

I just hope that at that moment, the unions will accept responsibility! I hope that some people here will have the courage to stand up and say that the majority of the responsibility of the end of Sabena is for the unions and the pilots.

I support the unions and more than anyone else I am aware of their crucial funtion in a company. They have to make sure that not only the shareholders are in the mind of the management, but also the employees. But in the case of Sabena, the shareholders have nothing to win anymore. Untill now, they have invested without a certain future ahead. It is now time for all people involved to take up their responsibility, to show that they are mature enough to start the negotiations. I understand Müller when he says that every day that passes now, is a loss of possibilities to find a better solution for the employees. With every strike, the number of people that will have to leave will rise!!

If it is true that next week will be another week of social actions at Sabena, I think we have to accept that there indeed is no future anymore for our airline. Already now, people are turning away from Sabena again. To win them back will be ten times more difficult. They have choice enough. Certainly the time and service sensitive high spender business passenger, who asks reliability. No matter how sad it is, even just to say this, the end of Sabena is, near, even for me who never wanted to belive it. It is sad to see that grown up people, at the head of the unions or the Belgian Cockpit Association, of whom I thought they would be smart enough not to put the future of the whole company in danger, do not have this sense of responsibility.


RE: Sabena: The Right To Strike?

Sat Sep 08, 2001 6:47 pm

I've just posted the following on another thread about SN - but it's even more relevant here. Your post, sndp was extremely well written and eloquently argued. I only hope that those BeCA members here will heed it.

Yes, that piece of insanity on the part of BeCA will indeed change Sabena for ever - the losses incurred by the company as a result of BeCA's selfish actions will now almost certainly result in its being put into administrative receivership and subsequently liquidation.

Given the animosity of the other Sabena unions - who obviously have much more foresight - to BeCA's actions, I very much doubt that there will be, as has been claimed, an all-out action next week - and if there is you can bet that within days the company will be closed.

As I have said many time, the reality is that the CSA is dead; the contract with VEX for the codeshare operation of flights is going to remain in place; and the rescue plan put together by Cristoph Muller is the only deal on the table. If anyone doesn't like it, they can resign - and that will mean that one less person will have to be made redundant.

Be aware too that other European airlines are taking a keen interest in this dispute and - having spent last evening with the Chief Pilot of one large UK airline - they are in particular noting who the militant people in BeCA are. Those people have little or no chance of employment in another carrier - who would want them to infect their airlines?
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RE: Sabena: The Right To Strike?

Sat Sep 08, 2001 7:52 pm

As a Belgian aviation enthousiast, and ex-Sabena employee (albeit as a student, twice...) , I can only regret every (social) action that might lead to the closure of Sabena.

Sabena has always been a part of my life, a certainty that has always been there...It would really make me sad, if Sabena would be no longer there...

I really understand the motivation of the Sabena pilots (they asked for a meeting with Mr. Müller, but this was immediately rejected), but I think that there should be other ways to make their points clear...

Instead of trying to make each other mad, and thus increasing the hostility between each other, all of the groups (mangement, pilots, flight crew, ground handling and so on) should really come together, and discuss the survival of Sabena.

But, as I already said, instead they are all trying to make sure that THEY get the best of it, and they don't care what their colleague employess get out of it. Now, how selfish can you be? Don't they get it that it's 1400 people (and I really regret every single one!) or much much more (not only ALL Sabena employees, but probably also many many subcontractors, other companies,...)

Therefore, to all Sabena employees on this forum: Don't menace each other, but try to achieve a dialogue and try to give Sabena a really great future...Don't simply reject Mr. Müller's plan, but look at the other options: bankruptcy and loss of ALL jobs!!!

I hope I made my point clear...
Ivan Coninx - Brussels Aviation Photography
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RE: Sabena: The Right To Strike?

Sat Sep 08, 2001 11:29 pm

What do you guys think!!!Do you realy believe that the SN pilots are a bunch of irresponsable cowboys who are willing to risk the jobs of 10000 people just because they do not like the way their soup tastes on board. Do you really believe this bullshit?

We are trying to establish a dialogue with the managment for several weeks now. No succes. The only thing we ask is the respect of the common seniority list and the carreerplanning.

Let me explain:

1)CSL: Every pilot within the SN group has its place on this list. The date of your touch and gos is the day where you receive a number on this list. This is the most honest way to avoid abuse of positions coming available. If you are elegible to become a captain for ex you will get the job if there is nobody suitable for this job with a place higher than you on the list.This principle goes for every place vacant to the pilots.It is clear for everybody and there is no room left for discussions.

2)carreer planning within SN group. Before this planning existed there where within this group 3 companies: SN DAT SLR.Every company working on its own. These three company, each with its own goals, where merged on the level of the pilots. (DAT regional/SLR charter/SN long and medium haul) This means that a young guy , starting at DAT has, when his number comes up on the csl remember, the possibility to accept a job as pilot wide body or carter within one of the 3 companies.This way everybody can do everything ones in his carreer when he wants to.
When there is no more carreerplanning agreement left this all will be decided randomly and when you start as a copilot RJ you will remain a copilot RJ unless somebody at the managment grants you a favour!!!

So you see,these are the two basic elements in being a pilot within this group. The pilots have been fighting for decades to obtain these rights.
And now all of a sudain wonderboy Mullers comes with his ( 2nd!!!!) magic plan and for the sake of his eyes we should let go of all of this.222 pilot (of a total of 1100!!) will loose their jobs plus all the others will have to give up all their rights!!!!This leaves total freedom to managment, this is a managers wet dream!!!!

No way we would have accepted this!And believe me, this is the plan he proposed!

Now, we all know that SN is in deep trouble and it does not have the means to continue the way it is doing right now. So we started checking out a few things, we tried to find sollutions and we asked some information.

1) checking out of Mullers BP. We appointed an external audit bureau to investigate the plan. Off course for this you need info so we asked this to SN so that we could obtain the necessary info. They replied that we would have acces to a data room with all the info but none of the info was allowed to leave this room for reasons of confidentiality!!!!What is the use than?
Also the whole study had to be done within 10 days!!!!!Than time was up and SN had to go on applying the BP!
PLSE remember this period of 10 days!!!

2)Sollutions. We figured out how many production was needed for this BP in manhours and thus full-time pilots needed. We know the number of SNgroup pilots so the sollution was there. Taking into account all the social taxes and everything we figured out that if every pilot worked 10% less and also earned 10% less no pilots would have to loose their jobs!!!!We simply divide the available work amongst availabele pilots.
Advantages for management:
*No allowances to be paid because of sacking peolpe
*A reserve in pilots in case the production has to grow in the future
*everybody happy!!!win-win situation

We presented this 2 weeks ago. The only thing managment said was: well, looks like a good plan but we need some months to study they need a couple of months for this and we should be able to onvestigate the BP in 10 days!!!!!
Anyway, they rejected it!!!Why, only god knows.....

3) demand of info: see above. No info given by managment allthough this is a legal right in belgium (wet renault).Theysimply refused untill know. Are they hiding something? Anyhow they have to pay a fine on monday because of this obstruction.

Gettin a picture allready of the atmosphere?

So we give 'em an strike warning. 7 days from that date there would be a strike. In the meantime we remain available for discussion. Do you think they even bothered to contact us? Not once!The only thing they did was giving statements to the press stating that they hoped that we would drop the strike. In the meanwhile every precaution was being taken to reroute the pax and to let the planes fly on the day of the strike.They leased a DC10, hired B737 with german pilots and so on.
So last thursday there was a strike.We hoped to hear from managment. Once again thy ignored us totally but talked to the press stating that the strike was a failure!They where able to let 65% of the flights continue thanks to the aid given by contact pilots, chief pilots and so on. They did not mention that 75% of the csl pilots refused to work!!!!

So managment went home happily, thinking they had won!

Next day, again a strike. This day without notice. So no actions taken, no contaract pilots availabele, no chief pilosts availabele! The strike was a succes and they where badly hurt. Untill 2 PM not a single aircraft took off.
Muller went all crazy and he goes to a court of law to file a complaint against his own employees to forbid them to strike. Instead of talking to us he preferred to sui us!!!Nice thing for a boss to do!
And thinking all he had to do was strarting a dialogue!!!

This has to be continued off course but you see, who is wrong here.

This action was the biggest strategical error a manager ever made in Belgium! Now all the unions are against him because striking is a constitutional right in Belgium.

And all we tried to do was to protect the basic principles of our job, trying to look for sollutions.

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Flying Belgian
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RE: Sabena: The Right To Strike?

Sat Sep 08, 2001 11:49 pm

What is striking in Belgium, is that pilots cannot strike more than 36 hours but Railway workers of SNCB, State employed people and others have the right to strike without any threats during weeks... This is disgusting !!!

Life is great at 41.000 feet...
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RE: Sabena: The Right To Strike?

Sun Sep 09, 2001 12:02 am

"I can only regret every (social) action that might lead to the closure of Sabena."

Have you ever seen a social action leading to the
closure of an airline company ?? C'mon..that's not a 10 hours strike which will lead to an end...have you ever
flown Iberia or Air France while they are on strike ?? it's not a matter of hours,'s about a week !!!!!!!!There are no links
between the future of Sabena and the current strike
of the pilots.....As Airbuspilot wrote, this strike was not
a selfish action but a global warning to the management! It's quite easy to put everything on the
heads of the pilots and cabin crew, they are the first
to suffer from the bad management of the company (the 80's and the civil servant managerial spirit, the
failure of the wedding with Swissair....) and this same management asked them sacrifices for their own errors!
What would you do at their place ?? Yeah, it's
definitely okay to axe people if it's 100% needed but
the pilots HAVE the rights to save the maximum of the
remaining basic principles of their job...

I've got less critics towards Muller than SN pilots on
this forum but I think one thing is interesting to do at
this time: everyone should sit at the table, discuss
their needs and wills and try to find a compromise !!!!
If Muller doesn't want to talk with pilots, the strike is
the only solution to send a strong warning..that's it!

To finish and as already written elsewhere, stop
thinking about a bankrupcy...the government said
bla..bla..bla...but SN won't die at all even at the cost
of a 3 small jet airline !!!

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Plane Holland
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RE: Sabena: The Right To Strike?

Sun Sep 09, 2001 12:02 am

Well, let's not hope this story ends up like Phillipine Airlines years ago. I think the surrounding countries of belgium (read airlines) can't wait till Sabena will end up in a mess. KLM already adds more frequencies to JNB. And when an airline strikes all passengers take a hike.. to another reliable airline.

rgds, Arjan
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RE: Sabena: The Right To Strike?

Sun Sep 09, 2001 6:30 pm

Did anybody see the Muller interview by chance on Canvas yesterday? I must say I now think that the SN's chances for survival are better than I expected allthough this may be due to Muler's excellent PR.

However, why do some unions object to SN taking legal action to aviod a strike. Is this that strange in Belgium? It happens in The Netherlands (and probably in all other countries around the world) all the time. The last time the KLM pilots went on strike they could only (because the court decided on this) strike between 10.00 and 19.00 (it lasted a week before KLM and the unions could agree to something).

Finally, why don't the SN pilots do what CX pilots are doing right now? Officially this isn't a strike but it does hurt the airline.

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RE: Sabena: The Right To Strike?

Sun Sep 09, 2001 7:25 pm

As I had expected, my post has led to a sort of discussion. After having read all the arguments, I would like to defend my first post in the following way.

As I have already said, I strongly support the right to strike for employees, whether they are bagage handlers or pilots. I hate the argument of some people that pilots may not go on strike, because they are well paid. That has nothing to do with this fundamental right.

BeCA should however consider this: at this very moment, Sabena is close to its end. Although they are not responsible for that, the situation at this moment is just like this. By going on strike, they situation will get worse, if not turn into a catastrophy.

The data room was indeed available to the pilots, as to all the other unions, and in there was information available that actually is confidential. The fact that they had access to that information in the first place, was already a favour from the management. Why, on earth, didn't BeCA visit this data room, just because the information could not leave the room (this to avoid that others would not be able to consult it and to make sure that the confidential information stayed like that.)

Time for negotiations has started. Everyone has to take up his responsibility. The management, the unions, the pilots. To save Sabena, all these people have to work together, dialogue, try to find, as fast as possible, a solution.

For the sake of our airline, that no one of us here wants to see dissapear, go and sit around the table and talk.

And please, do not say that the pilots did not have the chance to talk to the pilots. Müller talked to them during an informal meeting around a week ago.


RE: Sabena: The Right To Strike?

Sun Sep 09, 2001 7:50 pm

Tca256 - you ask how could the ongoing social action lead to the closure of SN? It's very simple. SN is bankrupt, and has been for many, many years - the Belgian government (along with other investors - who soon regret their action) - has been pumping billions of francs into a bottomless pit.

At the same time, passengers are seeing the effects of the poor staff morale - the frontline customer services people (ground and cabin crew) are more concerned with their futures (understandably) than with their passengers - and it shows in the very poor service that is being encountered at present.

Now, given that passengers actually like to be made to feel at home when they are travelling rather than being snarled at or treated abruptly by staff then you can see that there's no great incentive to fly SN at the moment. Add to that the present round of strikes and you'll see that from the passenger's perspective that not only are they going to be treated badly when they do fly - there's not even a great chance that they will fly!

The result is simple. No passengers = no income. No income = no money. No money = company bankrupt. Company bankrupt = no jobs.

Wake up and smell the coffee, people!!

RE: Sabena: The Right To Strike?

Sun Sep 09, 2001 10:15 pm

I'm getting so tired of you, your endless picking on each word on this boring.
I wonder if you also do something else than always posting messages on these forums ; don't you have a life ?


RE: Sabena: The Right To Strike?

Mon Sep 10, 2001 6:49 pm

Hmmm, Evarist - don't like to face up to reality, eh? Oh, and I see you've been banned. Ah well...

Anyway, looks like the facts about BeCA and the strike have now come out - BeCA has been acting illegally!!


Sabena goes to court over illegal actions by pilots
Dateline: Monday September 10, 2001

Sabena Friday morning launched an urgent court action against its pilots after they staged a wildcat strike just one day after they held an announced 24-hr. work stoppage (ATWOnline, Sept. 7).

Sabena asked the court to order the pilots back to work and to impose fines of
Bfr100,000 ($2,218) on each pilot who takes part in another unannounced strike and Bfr1 million against BeCA, the pilots' association, if it stages another walkout. Sabena maintains the pilot strikes are illegal as BeCA is not a recognized trade union and therefore has no authority under Belgian law to negotiate pay. In addition, it is illegal to strike during the information-giving part of labor negotiations.

Management and unions, which did not support the pilots' actions, were scheduled to discuss CEO Christoph Mueller's reorganization plan Friday afternoon. "The goals of the business plan are not negotiable," Mueller said at a press conference. "It's a composition of many, many factors. If I'm now asked to leave the salt out of the soup I cannot sell it as soup anymore. We will try to find to right balance between costs and social elements." Commenting on the pilots' attitude and demands, he said Sabena "will not respect the seniority list entirely. We cannot give certain reassurances to one group over another."

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