EWRFFVS
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What's With The Belgians?

Wed Sep 26, 2001 1:02 am

I see on ATW's web site that the Sabena unions are still holding out for a larger "social envelope" in their negotiations with SN management. Don't they get it? Their employer is on the shakiest ground possible, and they act like nothing's wrong! Are these people just plain stupid?
 
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yyz717
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RE: What's With The Belgians?

Wed Sep 26, 2001 1:15 am

You have a point. Don't forget though that unions are much stronger in Europe than here in North America. So is the social 'contract'. Perhaps the Sabena unions should look at the what the intransigence of the Ansett unions did to that carrier 2 weeks ago. Not suggesting that the AN unions were the primary cause of AN failing, but they were certainly a major contributing factor.

When carriers are in tough situations such as Sabena, the unions & mgmt need to break new ground & forge a new relationship. No sacred cows. I don't follow Sabena all that closely but they have been having financial difficulties for decades...would suggest long term mgmt & union incompetence/inflexibility.

I dumped at the gybe mark in strong winds when I looked up at a Porter Q400 on finals. Can't stop spotting.
 
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apuneger
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RE: What's With The Belgians?

Wed Sep 26, 2001 1:15 am

As a Belgian aviation enthousiast, I must admit that, according to me, things are getting worse and worse, day after day...

I hope this will stop in the near future, but I'm afraid it won't...Even if they reach an agreement, I think the spirit among the 'Sabeniens' (SN employees) is dead...There is no more unity. Directors and unions have been throwing mud at each other for the past few months, and if they reach an agreement, they think things will improve all of a sudden? I don't think so

That's how I feel...

Ivan
Ivan Coninx - Brussels Aviation Photography
 
Guest

RE: What's With The Belgians?

Wed Sep 26, 2001 1:30 am

Sabena is like a sick old dog that needs to be put down. The pieces will be picked up by other carriers, but SN is dead. The pilot's association, BeCA (it's not a union, btw ... and has no rights at Sabena) has been largely to blame for the 'social actions' over the last few years which have cost the company hundreds of millions of francs in lost revenue and expenses.

Have a look at the Sabena vs Muller thread for an idea of the sort of mentality one is dealing with there...  Insane  Insane  Insane
 
OO-AOG
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RE: What's With The Belgians?

Wed Sep 26, 2001 1:54 am

OK calm down, as a Belgian I cannot say that we are all stupid. The 3 main problems we have are:

1/ 3 national languages, and a lot of identity+ separatistm problems (Sabena is a good example), and a total lack of national unity that could solve many problems.
2/ Trade unions in all major companies have too much power, and most of their leaders are lets say...simple minded with an average IQ equal to....huuum.
3/ Social laws are crazy, and too expensive for companies.

Honnestly, as an ex Sabena employee, I can't explain neither understand my ex colleague's behavior in these dark days of aviation. They are crazy but I still wish them good luck.
Falcon....like a limo but with wings
 
EWRFFVS
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RE: What's With The Belgians?

Wed Sep 26, 2001 2:05 am

Please don't misinterpret me: I'm not saying all Belgians are stupid. I would never generalize such a strong statement (that would be stupid!). I only refer to the SN union heads who obviously have their heads in the sand and the lemming like employees who obviously won't mind being on the dole in the near future.

peace.

 
jwenting
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RE: What's With The Belgians?

Wed Sep 26, 2001 2:07 am

Unions don't give a damn about either the companies or the jobs of their members. All they want is money and they get that from looking good in the (at least in Europe predominantly socialist and heavily union controlled) press.
Holding out for a better deal makes them look good, and when the company goes under that is because management walked out with huge sums they stuck in their own pockets (at least that is how the press will report it).
I wish I were flying
 
Greg
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RE: What's With The Belgians?

Wed Sep 26, 2001 2:17 am

OO-AOG....
I'm curious...what are the seperate identities: French, Belgian and Dutch???
 
Guest

RE: What's With The Belgians?

Wed Sep 26, 2001 2:50 am

The behaviour seems odd to me, too. Perhaps a union leader with personal ambitions he fears will be blocked by any sign of compromise?

Or could the unions be using Sabena as some kind of loss-leader in order to score victories elsewhere, knowing full well that SN is on the verge of becoming to Europe what Harding Lawrence and successors' Braniff became to the U.S.?

 
MrAirbus
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RE: What's With The Belgians?

Wed Sep 26, 2001 3:00 am

We have 2 large "seperate identities": the Flemish in the north of Belgium and the Walloons in the south of Belgiun, and we have 3 official languages: Dutch( 55%), French (45%) and German (5%).
 
Guest

RE: What's With The Belgians?

Wed Sep 26, 2001 3:04 am

OO-AOG has it right - the average Belgian unionist hasn't got the intelligence to start playing Machiavellian games. Let's face it, BeCA's leadership thought that they were a union and acted accordingly - only to find out when Sabena took them to court that the reality is that they have no legal or bargaining rights whatsoever and had, in fact been acting illegally. Slight problem for its leadership, who (apparently) become liable not just to pay the fines levied by the court but also all of the losses incurred by Sabena as a result of such action as well. As a gesture of good faith, Sabena's CEO, Christoph Muller decided to hold off on collecting the money - and as a thank-you, BeCA stirred up the other unions to stage other 'social actions' the following week!

No wonder Belgium has one of the lowest levels of inward investment in Europe!  Insane  Insane  Insane
 
Guest

RE: What's With The Belgians?

Wed Sep 26, 2001 3:33 am

Forgot to say: here's the other thread I mentioned earlier: http://www.airliners.net/discussions/general_aviation/read.main/580323/ and at the same time, check out http://www.sabena.com/aboutus/media/index.shtml in which you can find SN's press releases over the last 18 months or so; which make very interesting reading!  Big thumbs up

From the latest press release, dated today:

Sabena management invites every employee of the Sabena Group to decide by referendum on the Business Plan.

If nevertheless a full agreement on the whole implementation of the Business Plan can be obtained in the next 24 hours, this referendum will be cancelled.

Christoph Müller has on Tuesday afternoon made a short statement on the discussions with the social partners. Although progress was made with regard to productivity measures and decreasing the number of lay-offs (from more than 1,400 to less than 700), an agreement has not yet been reached. The management has therefore decided to organise a referendum for all the personnel of the Sabena Group. In that way the personnel can decide on the
implementation of the Business Plan by the beginning of October – the only way for the company to get out of this difficult situation.

The Business Plan was presented to the social partners on August 9, 2001. Several Q&A sessions have been organised and a Dataroom was opened to allow the representatives of the personnel to understand the dramatic financial situation of the company and all other aspects of the Business Plan. Objective had been to report to the Board of Directors of September 17. Following this, and taking into account possible consequences of the September 11 attacks in the US, the Chairman of the Board, Fred Chaffart and Sabena President & CEO Christoph Müller have appealed to all representatives of the personnel to discuss as soon as possible the implementation of the Business Plan.

The discussion with the trade unions of this weekend and last night have allowed to make progress in following elements of the Plan :

- the reduction of personnel as a consequence of decreasing to number of aircraft by the end of October. Solutions have been found to reduce the number of lay-offs from more than 1.400 to less than 700;

- the filialisation of the airline related activities and their future sale;

- maintaining the Social Commission (‘Comité Paritaire’) 315.1;

- improvement of the productivity with 10%;

Nevertheless an agreement has not yet been reached.

As a consequence, the management of the Sabena Group has decided, in close consultation with the 2 main shareholders and the members of the Board of Directors, to invite every member of the personnel to individually decide by way of referendum on the implementation of the Business Plan. This referendum will take place in the first week of October, except if an agreement on the whole implementation of the Business Plan is reached in the next 24 hours.

Sabena President & CEO Christoph Müller made a short statement to the press on Tuesday afternoon : ‘The consequences of the September 11 attacks don’t allow Sabena to hesitate on the discussions regarding the implementation of the Business Plan. All other companies are already now implementing measures similar to our Business Plan, reducing capacity and employement by 10 to 20%.’

‘If no agreement on the whole implementation of the Business Plan can be reached in the next 24 hours, all employees will be invited to decide individually by way of referendum.’

‘I will accept the decision of the personnel. Everybody has to know that the only
alternative for the Business Plan is the closure of the company, in one way or another. I remain convinced that every Sabena employee understands the urgency of the situation and that they’ll decide for the future of the company.’
 
glider
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RE: What's With The Belgians?

Wed Sep 26, 2001 5:11 am

As a Belgian, I really hope this 'sabena-discussion' between Mr. Müller and the employees will stop and that they can reach an agreement...; and I also hope that our national carrier can survive this black period. What would be our ntional carrier if Sabena stops? VLM? Citybird? Nothing against this companies; they're in fact very good; can't complain about them! But the name Sabena has something 'belgian' in it. It would be very sad to me; Sabena HAS to stay!
Glider
 
LH423
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RE: Greg

Wed Sep 26, 2001 5:53 am

I believe the three identities OO-AOG was referring to is actually Flemish (Dutch), French, and German.

LH423
« On ne voit bien qu'avec le cœur. L'essentiel est invisible pour les yeux » Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
 
Stratofish
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RE: What's With The Belgians?

Wed Sep 26, 2001 5:59 am

Even the big trouble Sabena is in dont justify to denounce all Unionists. (Look at the 'Muller vs Sabena' thread) At times they sure have acted wrong, but the Sabena mgmt simply outplayed them in most unfair of ways. Let alone never really accepted them as partners. Some ppl have to learn it the hard way: you work WITH the Unions or everything will blow up in smoke. A Management has a responsibility; and not just the one to the shareholders.
BTW I have a very low opinion about Müller. They should have kept Reutlinger.
Let´s hope they reach a good conclusion.
RGDS
The Metro might be the Sub(optimal)way
 
Guest

RE: What's With The Belgians?

Wed Sep 26, 2001 7:20 am

Stratofish wrote: "Some [people] have to learn it the hard way: you work WITH the Unions or everything will blow up in smoke"

That's the kind of strategy I was wondering about when I suggested that the unions might be "using Sabena as some kind of loss-leader in order to score victories elsewhere."

In other words, I wouldn't put it past them to deliberately hamper any Sabena rescue plan in order to drive home that very message to politicians and other businesses.

It might just work to increase their leverage in the short term, but at the cost of breeding an 'anywhere-but-Belgium' mentality among would-be investors. And at the cost of Sabena's very existence.


 
Guest

RE: What's With The Belgians?

Wed Sep 26, 2001 7:54 am

Mcdougald - you said It might just work to increase their leverage in the short term, but at the cost of breeding an 'anywhere-but-Belgium' mentality among would-be investors. - unfortunately that's already the case, with Belgium having one of the lowest levels of inward investment in the EU.

Some people never learn.  Sad  Sad  Sad
 
Stratofish
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RE: What's With The Belgians?

Wed Sep 26, 2001 8:02 am

Sorry but Mcdougald you got me dead wrong.
I wasn´t referring to the Unions victories (or the opposite) elsewhere, but I was referring to the bad treatment the Unions received from Sabena.
And after all even Sabena employees may have a family they have to feed.
There has to be an agreement, but it can only be achieved with at least a bit of a constructive discussion. There has to be time for it, if not the Belgian state must act and give at least a little time. MÜLLER HAS TO AGREE TO A FAIR DIALOG! And I simply can´t believe there´s no time for it. It´s more a matter that both parties must agree to hold a dialog.
The Metro might be the Sub(optimal)way
 
Guest

RE: What's With The Belgians?

Wed Sep 26, 2001 8:09 am

Stratofish - who is the CEO of Sabena, Muller or the unions? Muller's job is currently to try and rescue the company from certain collapse. The time for talk and negotiation is long gone - as the Chairman said, it's as if the unions don't realise that there's a crisis going on!

There's a choice, plain and simple. Accept the business plan, as it stands, and SN has a chance. Or don't accept it, and Sabena will close.

To quote Muller - you can't make soup and take out half the ingredients, and still expect it to be the same.
 
Stratofish
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RE: What's With The Belgians?

Wed Sep 26, 2001 8:23 am

Let´s just hope that the Belgians do not have pionts of view which differ as much as ours Ceilidh. But maybe you at least agree that Müller is the wrong man for the job, though i must admit I don´t know of anyone better at the moment.

P.S.: The perfect company is led by the management (CEO) and the Unions.
The Metro might be the Sub(optimal)way
 
Guest

RE: What's With The Belgians?

Wed Sep 26, 2001 11:35 am

Stratofish wrote: "And I simply can´t believe there´s no time for it."

But when a CEO starts talking openly about shutting a company down, it's a pretty good indication that things are basically as bad as they could possibly get.

Even a CEO of a company that's going through a rough patch but in good enough shape to survive wouldn't dare muse about a shutdown for fear of destroying consumer confidence. Some CEOs will even go as far as to try to deny the obvious, such as Harding Lawrence's famous claim that Braniff was "not a financially troubled airline." Or the denial by Eaton's, once a Canadian retail icon, that it was in trouble, less than three months before it went to bankruptcy court to seek protection from its creditors.

If Sabena's management is talking about closing the airline, it's a sign that things have gone so far that they have much more to worry about than consumer confidence.

It would be great if someone like Gordon Bethune could step in and pull Sabena back from the brink, as he did at Continental in the mid-'90s when industry observers had the airline on a death watch. But Bethune's not available and Müller doesn't seem to have his skills and isn't being given the flexibility he would need to pull off a comeback.



 
petertenthije
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RE: What's With The Belgians?

Wed Sep 26, 2001 6:11 pm

Perhaps it is a idea to rename the SABENA into SABeCA. The BeCA does seem the pull the strings. Big grin
Attamottamotta!
 
Guest

RE: What's With The Belgians?

Wed Sep 26, 2001 6:21 pm

Sorry, Stratofish - but I have to disagree. Unions should never be involved in the overall strategy or running of a company. Their role should be limited to personnel issues. After all, they have no financial stake in the company (unlike the shareholders); nor are they part of its management - so why on earth should they run it?

Muller has done an excellent job. I know Paul Reutlinger personally, and his way of trying to get SN out of trouble was through rapid expansion. Fine in a bull market, but suicide now. And since it was effectively the unions that led to his resignation, it's fair to say that they are to blame for Christoph Muller being in the position he currently is!

Interestingly, I understand that it's as a direct result of the militancy of BeCA that Ryanair does not employ Belgian pilots... plus of course all the 'social' problems that VEX encountered - which Richard Branson described as his "worst ever investment".
 
LJ
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RE: What's With The Belgians?

Wed Sep 26, 2001 7:18 pm

If it weren't for Muller both shareholders and/or the creditors would have pulled the plug by now. However, i disagree with Ceillidh. The unions do have an input into the companies strategy. However, the shareholders have the final verdict.

Regards
Laurens
 
Guest

RE: What's With The Belgians?

Wed Sep 26, 2001 7:22 pm

Hey Ceilidh,

As a Belgian National I unfortunately have to agree with you on the current situation/mentality (I just know I'm going to take flak for this). The 'anywhere-but-Belgium' feeling is one that even I get. I was born there and most of my family is there, but I have not lived there for longer than 2 months at a time, and the way things are at the moment I am bloodywell going to keep it that way!!

I really don't know what the heck is up with our country, but it seems like it has become almost socially unacceptable to succeed there, be it at business or otherwise. There appears to be an incredible lack of 'big-picture-thinking' ability, and people seem to get a real kick out of bitching about trivial issues, missing the important points, and getting absolutely nowhere in the end. It is truly sad, as Belgium has a multitude of very intelligent and talented people who can't flourish.

The majority of my life has been spent living in Southeast Asia (Singapore) and the United States (Ohio and L.A.) and I've had an opportunity to look at Belgium from an 'observer's' standpoint. My personal feeling is that SE Asia and the USA are economically so successful, because people there are not afraid to make short-term sacrifices, and work their asses off to achieve something worthwhile. In Belgium, if workers are pushed beyond their comfort zone of around a 36hr workweek, it seems they automatically go on strike (how's that for enhancing productivity???!) !! Our railway system I would think, has to be amongst the least reliable in Europe. Just about every time I've had to use it, part of the system was on strike, and without a reliable transportation infrastructure, how on Earth can you expect to run a business, let alone convince foreign investors that it is the perfect place to set up shop in??!!!

As an entrepreneur, I've had to get used to making sacrifices. I currently have a normal 'day-job' while I'm working on my own plans in the evening. That means 40 hrs/wk on the job, + another 5 or so a day + weekends spent working for myself. My total 'work' week is presently around 85-90 hrs. I am focused on what I need to do, I work my rear end off, I don't have much of a social life, but I am absolutely convinced it is going to pay off big time in the long run. Robert Ringer calls it the 'pay now, play later' scenario.

It is very sad to see the dire straits that SABENA is currently in, and unless everyone rises up to the occasion they are going to go belly-up faster than a decomposing hippo. Having only ONE!! year in 40 where a profit was made is just totally ludicrous and shows a dramatic history of gross mismanagement. The unions can scream rape and bloody murder, but without cutbacks there isn't going to be an airline to go back to period. Especially in light of the tragic events in the United States, I mean look at it. The major carriers are laying off thousands and thousands of employees to prevent themselves from going into bankruptcy. This storm will pass, but it is going to be very much sink or swim for the time being. As the industry recovers and emerges strongly, I'm guessing that a large percentage of those that are furloughed will be in a position to get their jobs back, or find employment with different carriers, or so I hope.

SABENA (and Belgium in general!!) needs to give itself a severe reality check, and center itself around the routes that are most profitable to them, and utilize the most efficient equipment. From a passenger standpoint I have had the pleasure of flying with SABENA on several occasions in both Economy and Busines Class and the experience was a rather enjoyable one. I am flying with them this coming Friday from Newcastle to Brussels and I'm looking forward to it. It would be sad if our national carrier, which despite questionable business practices has an amazing history behind it, would be allowed to disappear. It is unfortunately time for some tough and unpopular choices. Belgium has to quit being the damn underdog of the EU, behaving like a 'small-gossip-town' of 8 million people, and needs to badly!!! take responsibility for its own future! As the supposed 'Centre' of the EU, I can't help but feel a little embarrassed at the National 'image' we have been exhibiting recently.


 
Stratofish
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RE: What's With The Belgians?

Wed Sep 26, 2001 7:35 pm

Well, Ceilidh I do understand your point, but one thing is incorrect: The Unions (or it´s members) do have a financial stake in the company. Most of them earn their living from it. And if any CEO works on the long term strategy involving the unions he can also share quite a bit of responsibility with them, which would mean a win-win situation. (At SN they obviously missed that chance.)
Things may be different if SN hadn´t been owned by the gvt. for such a long time and if it hadn´t such a big workforce.

Mcdougald - You may be right, but it´s also possible that such a statement was made only to add pressure to the unions. I know I do speculate here, but someone like Müller could do that.

best rgds
The Metro might be the Sub(optimal)way
 
airbuspilot
Posts: 382
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RE: What's With The Belgians?

Wed Sep 26, 2001 7:47 pm

You all do not know what you are talking about. Maybe you should botter a little bit more and get well informed before you start writing things down.

You have to agree on one thing:

Aviation and Belgium does apparently not go together!
Citybird just announced bancruptcy today, vex is struggling for life, SN has been dead for 15 years now ....

By the way Ceilidh, BeCA has one the appeal on court regarding the strikes. Today it has been confirmed that the constraint agains the strike, the ruling of the judge, was illegal!!!
 
Guest

RE: What's With The Belgians?

Wed Sep 26, 2001 8:51 pm

Airbuspilot - I think you mean that business and Belgium do not go together! To be fair, CityBird's bankruptcy is due to Boeing Capital demanding the full amount of the remaining leases on the MD11s; otherwise Thomas Cook/JMC would have taken them over.

Until 1980, Britain was like Belgium. The unions ruled the roost and strikes were commonplace, in many cases bringing the country to a standstill. Then came Margaret Thatcher, who for the first time stood up to them and broke their stranglehold on business.

As a result, Britain is the place to do business in Europe if you're a foreign investor. Labour is productive and relatively low cost whilst being at the same time highly skilled. Social costs are low, as is taxation.

Belgium needs a Margaret Thatcher!  Big thumbs up  Big thumbs up  Big thumbs up
 
Spitfire
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RE: What's With The Belgians?

Wed Sep 26, 2001 9:12 pm

To give you an idea, for 100€ in the pocket of a belgian employee, the boss have to pay 308 € here in Belgium (the higest of all EU!!!). Compare with Ireland : only 166€ !!!!
Sabena ... Never to be forgotten (12 years already , what a shame !! )
 
Guest

RE: What's With The Belgians?

Wed Sep 26, 2001 9:34 pm

Yes, but Spitfire - the problem lies with the Belgian people. You and I both know that the cost of doing business there is extortionately expensive - but the Belgian people want their social security and other programmes and those have to be paid for.

Governments (theoretically Big grin ) have to carry out the will of the people - so if the people wanted an economic environment that encourages entrepreneurship and investment, they could get it.

Unfortunately, that doesn't seem to be the case!
 
Spitfire
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RE: What's With The Belgians?

Wed Sep 26, 2001 9:46 pm

I know, I know  Crying but what can do a few thousands citizen against a vast majority of stupid selfish sluggards ...
Sabena ... Never to be forgotten (12 years already , what a shame !! )

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