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New twists in DHL saga

Published on September 28, 2004

28 September 2004

BRUSSELS – The federal government has made new demands on global courrier DHL in a bid to end a dispute over night flights.

A deal to expand DHL’s operations in Belgium still hangs in the balance, with thousands of jobs at stake.

Meanwhile local residents have stepped up protests at any increase in night flights over their homes which they claim will have harmful psychological implications.

Fragile talks are continuing daily between the federal, and regional governments of Wallonia, Flanders and Brussels.

It emerged on Tuesday that federal ministers have now demanded more details from DHL, including employment and financial guarantees.

“We want DHL to be clear about its commitments,” said deputy prime minister, Laurette Onkelinx.

“The declarations made by company representatives at the weekend provided little reassurance for those arguing in favour of job creation,” she said.

The federal authorities are also trying to thrash out a new compromise deal on the basis of information from their regional counterparts.

The Brussels regional authorities are seeking further clarification on the number of night flights necessary to expand DHL operations.

But the political stalemate increased agitation among the current workforce, many of whom stand to lose their jobs if the deal falls through.

According to a pamphlet circulated by unions, the outcome of the dispute could either boost the workforce to 4000 or reduce it to a few hundred.

A recent study by the VUB university showed that the relocation of DHL to either Vatry in France or Leipzig in Germany would affect between 13,163 and 17,535 local jobs in related services.

Unions are now threatening to down tools at the airport for one hour unless the government overcomes the impasse in negotiations.

Meanwhile, local residents found a creative way to protest the prospect of increased noisy night flights.

Between 70 and 80 representatives of residents associations demonstrated outside the office of Brussels minister-president Charles Picque on Monday night.

With the help of a lorry and loudspeaking equipment, they recreated the level of noise created by aircraft landing and taking off to put their point across.

[Copyright Expatica 2004]

Subject: Belgian news