Swissport Belgium, one of the two licensed ground handling service providers at Brussels Airport, was declared bankrupt in June 2020, three months after the airport's operations were interrupted due to measures adopted by the Belgian government to limit the spread of COVID-19. Nearly 1,500 workers lost their jobs.

In order to support these workers, Belgium applied for assistance from the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund (EGF) to help these redundant workers back into employment (especially those with no professional qualifications or with a low level of education).

The total cost of the support measures is estimated at EUR 6.2 million, of which EUR 3.7 million will be covered by the EGF, and the balance by the Flemish, Walloon and Brussels-Capital Regions.

The co-financed measures are aimed at job searching advice, apprenticeships, vocational training and other educational opportunities such as language and ICT training, as well as support to start a business. In addition, it is planned that participants may benefit from additional incentives. These include a bonus for breaking gender stereotypes when workers of the lesser represented gender opt for vocational training for significantly gender-unbalanced jobs.

The European Commission's proposal will now need to be approved by the European Parliament.

The EGF is a Fund that supports people who have lost their jobs or self-employed whose activities have ceased as a result of a major structural changes in world trade patterns due to globalisation. The scope of the EGF has been extended to cover employees who have been made redundant as a result of COVID-19. The budget of the EGF has also been increased. Thus, following the example of the proposal adopted by the European Commission in favour of the redundant Swissport workers, other measures of this type should emerge, given the impact of the health crisis on the economy as a whole.

It should be noted that the other licensed provider, Aviapartner, received an aid in the form of a EUR 25 million recapitalisation measure from the Belgian State, approved by the European Commission on 8 July 2020. The second licence was subject to a selection procedure and was awarded to Alyzia at the end of 2020.

Originally published 11 May 2021

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