Trade union militancy and staff shortages increase in the EU, causing misery for the public.

Graham Charles Lear
6 min readJun 23, 2022

So, you think it is only Brexit Britain that is seeing Strikes, cancellations, queues, and travel chaos. Well as this report shows you are wrong.

Strikes, cancellations, queues, travel chaos — The EU shows the UK how it’s done

Trade union militancy and staff shortages increase in the EU, causing misery for the public

Right across the EU, passengers are experiencing nightmares

Watching the BBC or Sky News, readers could be forgiven for thinking that the current rail strikes and airport queues in the United Kingdom are a peculiarly British phenomenon — and one at least partially caused by Brexit.

Ah, non. Pity the poor, underpaid, hardworking EU Commission officials as they attempt to flee Brussels for their long summer vacations. And it’s a similar story in many EU countries.

Brussels airport on Monday — fermé

On Monday (20 June 2022) Brussels — home to most of the EU’s various institutions — was paralysed by a national strike. The ACV, ACLVB and ABVV trade unions took to the streets of the capital to protest the cost of living crisis.

Commenting on the strike by its security screening staff at the airport, the company said: “Current estimates indicate that passengers will have to wait up to eight hours at the security screening.” In fact all flights from Brussels airport were cancelled and the transport system was badly affected.

To pour salt on the wounds of those EU Commission bureaucrats exhausted by their constant battle to punish Brexit Britain and hoping to go off on a ‘fact-finding mission’ to some exotic destination, Brussels airport is today impacted by yet more strikes.

Today also sees the start of a three-day strike by cabin crew, affecting tens of thousands of passengers. Further strikes are planned by pilots unions and others.

Strike at Brussels Airlines: 24 flights cancelled this Thursday morning (video)

Nearly 40,000 people are affected by these cancelled flights while the Belgian airline had more than 500 flights planned for the next three days.

Travellers are warned: this Thursday starts a complicated period for the air sector, upset by several strike movements. First to enter the dance, the pilots and cabin crew of Brussels Airlines, who will sit back on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, resulting in the cancellation of 315 flights.

Nearly 40,000 people are affected by these cancelled flights while the Belgian airline had more than 500 flights planned for the next three days. Thursday morning, 24 flights were already displayed as “cancelled” departing from Brussels Airport, indicates RTL. 40% of flights should however be maintained this weekend.

It isn’t only Belgium — Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain — everywhere you look in the EU

Holland’s largest airport (Schipol) — an international hub — has curtailed flights, as has Germany’s largest airport (Frankfurt). This is all due to a shortage of qualified staff after so many were laid off as a consequence of all the severe Covid measures that were imposed in the last two years.

In Italy, there was a transport walkout last Friday. Yesterday a breakdown in negotiations in Warsaw with air traffic controllers looks set to disrupt flights through Eastern Europe and beyond.

Transavia scraps 240 flights from Schiphol, 13,000 tickets cancelled

Strangely, no one in Europe has thus far suggested that the travel chaos across the EU has been caused by Brexit.

Queues and cancellations because of a lack of qualified staff? This is down to Covid lay-offs. Strikes over the cost of living crisis? This is down to governments printing money to pay people to sit at home, thereby fuelling inflation, as well as the worldwide hike in energy costs.

Any problems in the EU rarely make headlines in the UK’s broadcast media — except perhaps for GB News.


Unions representing Ryanair cabin workers in various European countries said last Friday they were planning a strike in Belgium and Portugal from Friday 24 to Sunday 26 June.

The ACV and BBTK unions said they were forced into action because Ryanair was not respecting Belgian labour law covering such issues as the minimum wage or pay of cabin staff for certain pre-and post-flight work.

A Ryanair spokesperson said last week that the unions should return to the negotiating table to deliver improvements instead of disrupting Belgian customers’ travel plans.

Ryanair’s chief executive, Michael O’Leary, had said that union accusations were “complete rubbish”.

Separately, unions said pilots and cabin crew of Brussels Airlines, a unit of Lufthansa, would go on strike from Saturday, June 23 to Monday, June 25.


Ryanair staff in France are also planning to strike on Saturday 25 and Sunday 26 June.

A major obstacle said to be holding up recruitment at airports has been the screening of staff, which in France can take up to five months for the most sensitive jobs.

Marie Marivel, 56, works as a security operator screening luggage at Charles de Gaulle airport for around €1,800 (£1,545) a month after tax.

She said shortages have led to staff being overworked, adding that stranded passengers have been turning aggressive and that morale is low.

“We have young people who come and leave again after a day,” she said. “They tell us we’re earning cashiers’ wages for a job with so much responsibility.”

After much disruption in May, the situation in France is stabilising, said Anne Rigail, chief executive of the French arm of Air France-KLM.

Yet Paris’s Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports, where one union has called a strike on Saturday 2 July, still need to fill a total of 4,000 vacancies, according to the operator.


Ryanair staff on flights to and from Italy are also bound to strike on Saturday 25 June. Buses, trains and ferries were also affected by a transport strike last Friday.


Unions in Warsaw, home to the country’s largest airport, have threatened to walk out over what they said was a failure by Poland’s Air Navigation Services Agency to abide by an 11th-hour deal struck in April and which narrowly avoided thousands of flights being cancelled over pay and post-Covid working conditions, Politico reports.

The Netherlands

Schiphol airport in Amsterdam said it would impose a flight cap for July and August as it deals with a shortage of security staff.

Schiphol said it would accept around 70,000 passengers a day, about 16 per cent — or 13,500 seats per day — fewer than airlines had planned.

In the Netherlands, unfilled vacancies are at record highs and KLM’s Schiphol hub has seen hundreds of cancelled flights and long queues.


Norwegian Air Shuttle announced the cancellation of 17 flights on Wednesday as the Norwegian Air Traffic Technician Organisation (NFO) currently has 106 workers striking. Another 39 staff could join the protest on Friday, the Local reports.

Some 2.3 million jobs in aviation were lost globally during the pandemic, with ground handling and security hardest hit, according to industry lobby group the Air Transport Action Group.

Many workers have been slow to return to the industry, having been lured by the “gig” economy or opting to retire early.

“They clearly have alternatives now and can switch jobs,” said senior ING economist Rico Luman.

While he expects travel pressure will ease after the summer, he says shortages may persist as older workers stay away and, critically, fewer younger workers are willing to replace them.

“Even if there is a recession, the labour market will remain tight at least this year,” he said.

[ Sources: Brussels airport | Brussels Times and other European media ]



Graham Charles Lear

What is life without a little controversy in it? Quite boring and sterile would be my answer.