Dispute escalates between DHL and union

Dispute escalates between DHL and union

DHL said it had experienced no problems Thursday night at its Brussels hub following a brief strike by air-cargo handlers, but the International Transport Workers Federation accused the express carrier of using coercive tactics against union members.

DHL spokesman Xavier de Buck said the company sorted its normal volume of 850 tons Thursday night. "We were fully operational," he said.

However, about 15 employees were sent home because they refused to work, de Buck said. They will be paid because "we don't want to escalate potential problems. We're trying to cool things down."

De Buck also said there were no problems at DHL facilities elsewhere in Europe.

The dispute arose early in the week when DHL dismissed a shop steward for what de Buck described as "unacceptable behavior." He did not elaborate.

SETCa, the union representing close to half the workers at the Brussels hub, then went on strike, but its members returned to work on Wednesday after the company threatened to fire anyone who did not cooperate, according to the London-based ITF. The company also obtained a court order that would levy large fines against workers who disrupted operations.

David Cockroft, the ITF's general secretary, accused DHL of "marching down a dangerous path of escalation."

He urged Klaus Zumwinkel, chairman of Deutsche Post World Net, DHL's owner, to take control and halt "what is turning into a very nasty exercise by his company. Unless he does so, I can very shortly foresee trade unionists and union-friendly companies re-evaluating their use of DHL."