Customs officers at Liege Airport step up strikes as cargo backlogs grow

Source: The Loadstar  
Date: 9th January 2023

Talks are taking place today in a bid to end the long-running industrial action by 250 customs officers at Liège Airport (LGG), protesting at what they claim is a deterioration in their working conditions.

Warehouses at the Belgian gateway are reported to be overflowing with shipments as a result of work-to-rule strikes by customs officers which began almost a month ago.

According to one labour union official, since 11 December, customs officers have carried out daily checks on just 300 parcels instead of the normal 10,000, which has led to a backlog estimated at 120,000 parcels, plus another 6,500 very small parcels whose value needs to be checked for customs duty purposes.

On 8th January, customs officers extended their action to the entrance of the airport, carrying out lengthy checks on trucks, causing a build-up in traffic. This is expected to continue today ahead of talks with the mediator.

Freight hub LGG has emerged as an important entry point for cross-border e-commerce trade between China and Europe, a cluster of Chinese firms in the sector are now established there.

Heavy investment at the airport which today serves as a hub for its inter-continental flights and pan-European road distribution network.

In an interview with the local newspaper La Meuse Liège, the general secretary of the CSC Services Publics labour union said negotiations with management had stalled.

He described the situation as “tense”, exacerbated by management’s move to stop checking parcels arriving at the airport in light of the strikes, raising the risk of drugs and counterfeit goods not being detected. He also claimed customs officers have been prohibited from carrying out security rounds, compromising the fight against terrorism.

“We’ll see on 9th January if we can agree on proposals to achieve a better work and home life balance for customs officers,” he said.

Unions are demanding written commitments on workloads, concerning the measurement of key performance indicators, the number of flights and the tonnage of goods.

“A work planning tool has been promised for many years,” said the UNSP Finances union.

No one was immediately available to comment on the dispute at the Belgian customs authority when contacted by The Loadstar. However, a spokesperson for LGG’s operating company said: “According to the feedback we have, the percentage of parcels under customs control remains low in relation to the airport’s overall tonnage.

“Some warehouses are suffering more than others, depending on the nature of the cargo handled. E-commerce shipments are more affected than general cargo or perishables.”

The spokesperson added that LGG’s import volumes in general, in November/December, were higher than in 2022, particularly from China.

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