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Despite this, there is still no threat of a strike at Zurich Airport

The union criticizes that the negotiations with Swissport are not progressing quickly enough. She announces combat measures – but there will be no strikes until the collective employment contract expires at the end of 2022.

The employees of Swissport are on the attack. The union has now terminated the collective labor agreement. But you remain in negotiation.

Arnd Wiegmann / Reuters

The rush of passengers is currently difficult for airports and airlines to cope with. The workforce was greatly reduced during the Corona crisis to ensure the survival of the companies. The burden on employees is correspondingly high.

The ground handler Swissport had drawn up a collective labor agreement (GAV) with its employees for the time of the crisis. However, the trade unions have now terminated this CLA at the end of the year and are not ruling out combat measures for better working conditions.

Peace obligation by the end of the year

However, the union statement does not mention a strike. Trade union secretary Regula Pauli also says that the peace obligation is being adhered to. This stipulates that there will be no strikes until the end of the valid GAV – i.e. the end of 2022. Air passengers in Zurich therefore need not fear strikes over the summer holidays, which would paralyze the entire operation. Most recently, strikes by security personnel in Brussels had brought air traffic there to a virtual standstill.

Swissport employs 3,400 people in Switzerland, in Zurich alone there are 1,880. Combat measures could initially include protests, for example, with which passengers are made aware of the working conditions. The union stresses that it will take a phased approach.

The termination of a CLA is rather the exception in Switzerland, since the social partnership is upheld. What made the union do it anyway? Pauli says that negotiations with Swissport have not progressed and that the company is in no way prepared to respond to the staff’s demands.

The union wants to at least go back to the contract from before the Corona crisis. She also demands an adjustment for inflation and an improvement in Fridays in order to restore the “work-life balance”. Negotiation dates have already been set for August and September, which will also be observed. And if the employer approaches the union sooner, that would be welcomed, says the union secretary.

Why is the contract terminated now? On the one hand, it is because you have to cancel the GAV six months in advance. Of course, the union also wants to send a signal at a time when attention to the topic is huge anyway.

Swissport is confident

The employer Swissport is still confident that a new CLA will be negotiated by the end of the year. However, a spokeswoman says that they do not want to return to the GAV from before the crisis. She points out that air traffic has changed fundamentally. There are many more flights than before within a few hours, i.e. in the so-called waves.

In addition, the airlines are planning much more short-term: Suddenly new flights are added to the flight schedule or – as recently – various flights are canceled. The employer is therefore aiming for more flexibility in the deployment of staff in a new CLA.

Swissport admits that the situation is very challenging for employees. And there are people who temporarily have to work six days, but of course the relevant labor laws are observed.

Despite the militant tones of the union, both sides emphasized that they wanted to stick to the social partnership and find solutions. So not too much crockery has been smashed yet.

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