On Thursday, the Committee on Budgets approved Belgium’s request for support from the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund for Displaced Workers (EGF). MEPs acknowledged that “the COVID-19 pandemic and the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine have reduced economic competitiveness and have a negative impact on economic growth in Belgium”.
TNT Express Worldwide (Euro Hub) SRL, the Belgian subsidiary of FedEx, decided to make Paris-Charles de Gaulle airport the primary hub for its operations. The airport in Liège was downsized to a secondary hub. As a result, the company reduced the number of staff at Liège airport in 2022. The decision was intended “to strengthen the group’s position within its highly competitive sector at European and national level”, MEPs said.
Workers from disadvantaged groups
The redundancies concern the region of Wallonia in Belgium and the province of Liège in particular. Wallonia’s unemployment rate is 8.7%, which is higher than an average of 5.9% at the national level. MEPs point out that a large proportion of the former workforce of TNT Belgium come from disadvantaged groups, with 60% of the displaced workers having held low-qualified jobs and almost half of them (47%) over 50 years old.
The funding will help them find new jobs through tailored guidance and advice, training, and support to start their own business. The total estimated cost of these measures is about €2.3 million, of which the EGF will cover 85% (€1.9 million). The Walloon Region in Belgium will finance the remaining 15% (€400,000).
The draft report by rapporteur Olivier Chastel (RENEW, BE) recommending that Parliament approve the aid was passed by 32 votes, none against and no abstentions. Approval by plenary is expected during the 13-16 March plenary session in Strasbourg.
Under the EGF regulation 2021-2027, the Fund supports displaced workers and self-employed people who have lost their activity. All types of unexpected major restructuring events can be eligible for EGF support, including the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and Russia’s unjustified invasion of Ukraine, as well as larger economic trends like decarbonisation and automation. Member States can apply for EU funding when at least 200 workers lose their jobs within a specific reference period.
Overall, since 2007, the EGF has made available €688 million in 175 cases, offering help to more than 167,000 people in 20 Member States. EGF-supported measures add to national active labour market measures.