July 1-3 airport strike to be “one of the biggest ever”

National airports will be brought to a standstill this weekend (July 1-3) due to a scheduled strike that airport and aviation staff union SITAVA says will be “one of the biggest ever” in Portugal’s aviation industry.

The union met with Portugal’s Planning and Infrastructure Minister Pedro Marques on Monday (June 27) to discuss its demands, but the meeting was “fruitless”.

There’s still time for the government to stop the strike, however.

“If our demands are met, the strike will be called off. But so far we’ve received no guarantees, so it is moving forward,” union president Fernando Henriques told the Resident.

Though he did not specify how many employees will take part, Henriques believes the strike will “paralyse” Portugal’s three main airports (Porto, Lisbon and Faro) and affect nearly all flights, especially on Saturday and Sunday (July 2-3).

The issue centres mainly on the “precarious working conditions” of Portugal’s airport baggage handling employees.

SITAVA demands the government intervene to stop Groundlink – Ryanair’s baggage handling company – from operating in Portugal. The union says the handler operates “fraudulently” and does not “respect workers’ rights”.

The union also accuses it of “unfair competition” as it “does not comply with the sector’s rules” (a similar argument to the one used by Portugal’s taxi associations regarding Uber).

SITAVA believes Groundlink’s “unfair competition” is one of the main reasons national handler Portway has carried out the mass-dismissal of 256 employees.

But the union also condemns Vinci – which manages Portway – for how easily it sacks its workers. If the strike is to be aborted, it wants Vinci to change its attitude.

Finally, SITAVA also wants the government to withdraw a previous ruling by the PSD/CDS-PP government that allowed a third handling company to operate at Lisbon’s airport – a recommendation that was already approved by parliament on March 31 with favourable votes from PS, PCP, Bloco de Esquerda and PEV.

Henriques says the union’s demands had already been made to the previous PSD/CDS-PP government, which “was never available to sit down and talk”.

“This government has at least met with us, but that’s not enough. Something has to be done,” he added.

If the strike does move forward as planned, it will involve Portway, Groundforce and all other employees who work through temporary work agencies.

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