Portuguese baggage handlers threaten further strike action after more than 230 flight cancellations

Syndicates consider “working together in more coordinated actions” 

The three-day strike by employees of ground handling company Portway at Portugal’s main airports saw the cancellation of at least 230 flights into and out of Lisbon and Porto between midnight last Thursday and midnight last night (Sunday).

Promising “other actions”, Pedro Figueiredo, leader of SINTAC (the national union of Civil Aviation workers) said the next step involves “making an assessment of everything to see what we are going to do from Monday.” 

On the third and last day of the strike at least 40 flights were cancelled at Lisbon airport and around 20 at Porto.

Faro saw a “slight increase” in the number of workers ‘walking out’, but no flight cancellations.

Questioned about future actions of protests, Pedro Figueirdeo said there are several possible formats, namely unions “working in more coordinated fashion, with new strikes and also court cases against the company’s allegedly illegal treatment of employees”.

While stressing that SINTAC does not back the idea of “unionism being done in court” because it is necessary to have “solutions for the moment”, he said he had “the most incredible evidence” of Portway’s request to airport operator ANA to recruit workers from rival ground handling companies and outside companies, namely Groundforce and Ryanair, to undertake services during the strike.

This was “an act by several people, unfortunately, and it is disrespectful even to the workers, so whoever agrees with this is committing an illegal act,” he told a press conference at Lisbon airport yesterday afternoon.

About Portway’s response to workers’ demands, Figueiredo maintained “the company does not want to talk, does not want to reach consensus, does not want to effectively improve the living conditions of workers … only wants, or is only interested, apparently, in improving the conditions of passengers and improving the prices it offers to its customers.”

In SINTAC’s mindset “Portugal’s airports are managed by multi-millionaire Vinci, the main shareholder of both ANA and Portway, which only weeks ago announced profits of €1.9 billion”. 

Says Lusa, Figueiredo accuses Vinci of wanting “to destroy the Portuguese social class of the aviation sector.”

“We will go with all possible weapons and means to fight against these gentlemen of this Vinci group, who clearly have ramifications for political power, never forgetting that we will always be available to reach agreements, with honesty and ethics,” he said.

In its own statement, Portway has described the strike as “an irresponsible act”.

During the strike, a ministerial order was in effect defining skeleton services that had to be assured, which meant that one third of workers – including those assisting passengers with reduced mobility (MyWay) – were not allowed to strike.

As SINTAC has explained, the strike’s purpose, was called to challenge “the HR (human resources) policy assumed over the last few years by Portway, of confrontation and devaluation of workers through consecutive breaches of the Company Agreement, disciplinary confrontation, lack of salary updates and misrepresentation of performance evaluations that prevent salary progression” as well as “bad faith in negotiations.” 

Portway workers are demanding compliance with the 2016 Company Agreement, and a performance assessment of workers “that does not serve to avoid career progression”, as well as the payment of holidays at 100% and immediate wage updates that take inflation into account.

Source: Lusa