Airport workers in Portugal seek a long-term solution for the future of Groundforce

29 Mar 2021

Groundforce airport workers call for a long-term solution after their jobs are put at risk because of the main shareholder’s irresponsible behaviour.

After a turbulent year of (temporary) dismissals, lowered salaries, and general uncertainty, Groundforce workers received a puzzling announcement that their salaries cannot be paid at the end of February. The email they received came from the ground handling company’s largest shareholder, Alfredo Casimiro, who holds 50.1% of the company’s shares.

The news left workers in shock since the Portuguese government has not stopped their financial support for the sector, including financial support for salaries. Quickly, however, they found out what happened – the majority owner Casimiro is in deep financial trouble and unable to cover basic costs.

This development has put 2400 jobs in peril and with them the livelihoods of workers and their families. Responding to devastating news, workers spontaneously organised a series of protests, calling for the protection of jobs and state intervention to ensure the company’s long-term viability.

A temporary solution was established last week after a parliamentary hearing that included Alfredo Casimiro. The government decided to buy ground handling equipment from Groundforce through the national carrier TAP. Portuguese government currently holds a majority stake in TAP after it increased its share in July 2020. By buying 7.5 million worth of equipment, TAP made it possible for Groundforce to cover February and March salaries and tax payments. Groundforce is now supposed to lease the equipment back from the government.

This solution is not permanent, though, and workers are concerned about the future. To ensure the stability of the company, they are demanding a change in the ownership structure.

Their call is clear: Alfredo Casimiro must go.

Ground handling is a profitable sector in Portugal, and it will likely grow considerably in the coming years. Workers believe that the current ownership structure poses too many risks for the company and will stop it from growing securely and sustainably.

The ETF stands with airport workers in Portugal and joins their call for government action to ensure long-term stability in the sector. The sustainability of the company can only be built on a democratic and transparent management structure.

We also call for improvement of working conditions in the sector that has relied on low-paid and, in many cases, precarious workforce for too long, despite great business success.