Union FNV is considering bringing a mass claim on behalf of baggage handlers at Schiphol Airport for work-related injuries following an exposé by NOS and Nieuwsuur about working practices at the airport.
The union said it will collect case reports by setting up a helpline for current and former baggage handlers who are are suffering from injuries related to heavy lifting and working without lifting equipment.
It is not easy for workers to prove conclusively that their injuries are caused by their work, professor of labour and health Allard van der Beek told broadcaster NOS.
‘These cases rarely make it to court. If a builder falls down a scaffolding and breaks his leg it is clearly work related. But back injuries occurring over time can be down to age, bad habits or playing tennis at the weekend, an employer could argue.’
But labour lawyer and mass claim expert Max Keulaerds said the claim would stand a good chance of success.
This is different because we are talking about a big group,’ he said. ‘I can’t imagine an employer saying: here are hundreds of people with back problems and it’s all down to gardening.’
The claim will also be helped by the findings of health and safety agency Arbeidsinspectie which paid a surprise visit to Schiphol on Friday following the Nieuwsuur broadcast. It showed things had not improved since 2004, when the agency last checked up on working conditions.
Lawyers will also point to Schiphol chief Dick Benschop’s admission that the airport should have been more involved in baggage handlers’ working conditions, something it has said was not part of its legal responsibilities.
Benschop said he wants to put an end to the fierce competition between baggage handling providers, which is a major factor in the lack of protection for workers.
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