Labor Inspectorate: working conditions at Schiphol must improve quickly

The companies that unload the suitcases at Schiphol, refuel the planes, bring the catering on board and guide the passengers must invest heavily to improve the working conditions of their employees. For example, the carcinogenic emissions of diesel engines on the platform must be significantly reduced.

This is the conclusion of the Dutch Labor Inspectorate on Tuesday in two long-awaited reports on working conditions at the Amsterdam airport.

The six companies that handle luggage must immediately deploy technical resources to process the bags. This includes so-called lifting aids. Within two years, the handling of baggage in the basements of Schiphol must be fully automated. If the handlers do not meet the requirements, they risk a fine or an order subject to periodic penalty payments.

According to the Labor Inspectorate, all baggage handlers take insufficient measures to reduce the physical strain on employees. For example, not all baggage basements are equipped with an automated or mechanized system and the lifting aids are not sufficient everywhere.

The investigation by the Labor Inspectorate shows that, measured over a day, employees lift at least twice as much weight as is allowed in both the basement and on the apron (at the aircraft). “There is a strongly increased risk of back problems,” says the Labor Inspectorate. The working method must be changed immediately to prevent permanent damage to health.

Electric driving

All diesel-powered work equipment (aggregates, vehicles, mobile stairs) must disappear on the platform in the short term. Instead, the service companies have to use electric vehicles. Part of the replacement should take place before the end of this year. The rest depends on when Schiphol will have sufficient infrastructure for electric charging. It is expected to be up to standard by the end of 2025.

It is unclear who should pay for the replacement. The independent handling companies, which are hired by the airlines or the airport, have been talking about sharing equipment for some time.

According to the Labor Inspectorate, which investigated the platform work after an enforcement request from the FNV trade union and a TV broadcast from the current affairs section Zemblaworkers on the platform run an increased risk of exposure to harmful substances.

The inspection mentions, among other things, diesel engine emission (DME), which is carcinogenic. Schiphol is not the only company that the Labor Inspectorate checks for DME. In the past year, the organization has required more than 100 companies to reduce DME.

Auxiliary engines

A decision from the Labor Inspectorate will follow shortly in response to the FNV’s enforcement request. The union wants Schiphol to take measures against emissions from aircraft auxiliary engines, among other things.

Read also: ILT: use of polluting engines at Schiphol must be reduced

The Human Environment and Transport Inspectorate (ILT), which monitors aviation in the Netherlands, warned Schiphol in February that the airport must improve the working conditions of apron employees. The auxiliary engines that supply parked aircraft with electricity and clean air now run on diesel. That pollutes the air on the platform. Schiphol, airlines and handling companies submitted an action plan on 1 March. The ILT must now assess that.

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