Insane speeds, unmatched wages, understaffing… Airlines workers are under pressure as a turbulent summer begins.
With summer just beginning, workers in the airline sector are already sticking out their tongues, as demonstrated by the strikes that rocked several low-cost companies in Europe this weekend. On the ground or in the air, they bear witness to the pressure they are under from the sudden and ill-expected return of travellers.
hostesses and stewards
The coordinated strike by Ryanair (CFC) cabin crew in five European countries has shed a harsh light on the explosive situation facing low-cost airlines. “It’s June and the colleagues are already tired,” stresses Damien Mourgues, union representative at Ryanair. “Our base salary is 854 euros with variables of 8.50 euros per hour,” he describes.
In Spain, at Easyjet, we have “a basic salary of just 950 euros” and “when we don’t fly we earn 950 euros, that’s all”, laments Pier Luigi Copellón, a steward in Barcelona for 14 years. A few days ago, Ryanair was still forbidden to use water on planes. In the end, the management let go of the ballast and “we are entitled to four bottles of 500 milliliters per person,” explains Damien Mourgues.
Trouble is also brewing at Transavia and Volotea, and strikes are planned for this summer. At Brussels Airlines, on the Friday of the strike, “a crew member works an average of between 50 and 60 hours over five days,” assures Claudia de Coster, cabin manager.
This is one of the spots most affected by staff shortages when traffic resumes. The agents in charge of screening baggage and passengers at the Inspection Filter Points (PIF) are forced to handle massive flows with fewer resources than before. “We have two or three instead of five per PIF,” explains Saïd Abdou, a Securitas employee in Orly.
“The pace is so fast. Securitas recently hired 17 people, they worked one day and they didn’t come back. It was too hard,” he says. Eight of his colleagues are on furlough due to burnout, he says, because they were denied leave this summer.
“Among the baggage handlers, there are those who put the baggage on the carpet, those who crouch in the hold to stack it, it’s very tiring,” explains Luc Atlan, union secretary. Baggage handlers, dependent on large contractors like Air France, have massively reduced their workforce during the Covid-19 crisis.
The sudden increase in speed leads to “working under pressure. And with understaffing, it’s easy to walk away and hurt yourself. Absenteeism is increasing all the time,” predicts Luc Atlan.
They are not well known, but in the facility designed to ensure the smooth running of an airport, those responsible for accompanying people with reduced mobility are no less important, but they are understaffed. “We have a lot of delays, a lot of cancellations,” regrets Ali Khiati, trade union representative at Gibag. “There are people who wait an hour on the plane,” forcing the plane to remain immobile. “When we arrive after an hour, the captain, the customers, are yelling at us as we had the operational order five minutes ago. We’re mops,” he gets carried away.
“I can feel the summer disaster,” he fears, claiming that he’s never experienced it in 18 years in the business. “A week ago, 21 people missed their plane on the same day. There were 16 who left for Algiers, we took them to a poor garden and there was so much work that the Inspectorate forgot about them.
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