Schiphol airport told to slash baggage handling firms to three

Uncollected baggage at Schiphol. Photo:

The number of baggage handling and ground service companies operating at Schiphol should be cut from six to three, caretaker infrastructure minister Mark Harbers has told the airport authority.

Harbers said he has taken the decision based on research he commissioned which shows that having three handling firms improves pay and conditions for employees. “Having a high number of handlers creates choice and low costs for the airlines, but can also hurt working conditions,” the minister said.

The plan is now being put out to consultation and a final decision will follow in the autumn. After that, Schiphol will launch a European tender process to select the three firms which will carry out the work. Schiphol is 100% owned by the Dutch government and local authorities.

Labour inspectors said in 2004 that the airport was failing to comply with safety standards and ordered it to buy equipment to ease the burden on staff, such as lifting aids.

But it emerged last year that inspectors had not carried out a single check on working conditions since 2010.

Last April the airport was brought to a halt when KLM ground crew walked out in protest at plans by the national airline to outsource some of its work. A shortage of baggage handlers and security staff also forced Schiphol to limit passenger numbers over the summer, forcing airlines to cancel flights or re-route them to other airports.

Dick Benschop, who resigned as CEO of Schiphol in September in the wake of the summer chaos, blamed fierce competition between baggage handling companies for the lack of protection for workers.

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