Herman de Wulf/BRUSSELS

A SCHEME UNVEILED by Sabena president Pierre Godfroid to get employees to work longer hours for less pay, to improve productivity, has met with an instant response. Cabin crew and pilots have announced they are going on strike on 20 October.

Godfroid believes that Sabena could save BFr1 billion ($33 million) in 1996 if staff add another 2h to their present 38h week.

He also wants workers to abandon the automatic indexing of salaries to the cost of living, drop automatic seniority wage increases and adopt greater job flexibility.

The airline, in which Swissair recently took a 49% stake, is expected to make an operational profit of BFr1.3 billion for 1995/6, but interest payments will turn this into a net loss.

"We can no longer afford to pay salary increases as unions think fit, and simply hand down the bill to the passengers as we did in the past," says Godfroid. "Today, we are competing in a global market where fares are determined not by union demands, but by global competition."

Godfroid is holding out the carrot of another 1,000 jobs if airline results improve. He says that savings would increase threefold to BFr3 billion by 1999.

Delta Air Transport (DAT) is to leave its Antwerp Airport base to centralise operations and maintenance at Brussels Airport.

"It's a logical decision," says the Sabena president, "as most of DAT's activity is already concentrated at Brussels Airport." The low-cost carrier flies an increasing number of services for Sabena from Brussels.

The airline is acquiring 23 Avro RJ85s to replace its jet fleet of nine Fokker F28s, three BAC One-Elevens and eight British Aerospace 146s, but not its ten Embraer EMB-120 Brasilias.

BAe is taking back the 146s and five F28s at an undisclosed price. It will also buy back the RJ85s after ten or 15 years. Godfroid says that it was the favourable buy-back price that "...was conclusive to Avro getting the deal".

Source: Flight International