The signs in Europe for labour relations are ominous - and it's not just carriers with the more 'radical' unions facing a difficult start to the year.

Strike action at Sabena started at the end of Nov-ember with one-day strikes after management cancelled all labour contracts.

The Belgian flag is looking for a three-year pay freeze, a two hour increase in the working week and more flexible working practices. In return, the carrier is offering to set up a profit-sharing scheme and guarantee 1,000 new jobs. One Sabena official describes the strike as a 'power battle' between a management keen to instill a private-company mentality and a group of unions who want chief executive Pierre Godfroid ousted.

The dispute with cabin crew at Air France which led to a further strike in December, amid the wider tide of industrial action engulfing the country, may yet be resolved in early 1996. The carrier says it plans to start hiring new cabin crew at lower salaries in January to replace the estimated 600 current staff - 10 per cent of the carrier's cabin crew complement.

Pilots at Swissair and KLM may yet threaten trouble. Aeropers, the Swissair pilots' union, is awaiting the result of a ballot which would clear the way for unprecedented industrial action. The union stresses a one-day stoppage would be the last resort and at presstime a mediator was due to intervene in the stalemate over management's demands to remove pilots' co-decision rights.

The poor relations between management and pilots may be on the mend at KLM. After concessions on both sides, talks are to start 'in the near future.'

M Odell/R Whitaker

Source: Airline Business