European Transport Workers' Federation
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Campaign against social dumping and for quality jobs in European aviation


The liberalisation of the air transport in the early 1990's has brought benefits to the travelling public in terms of democratisation, cheaper air fares and diversified offer. But who pays the price and what is the amplitude of this phenomenon? Jobs in aviation that used to be prestigious and high-quality are disappearing and being outsourced or replaced by cheaper work. This development can be attributed to the liberalisation of the industry without social regulation, which leads to social dumping: airlines are facing fierce competition, the profit margins are lower than in any other industry and employers are looking for ways to cut costs in order to remain competitive. While some costs (such as fuel or aircraft ownership) are to a certain degree fixed, airlines believe that labour costs can be pushed down in a never-ending spiral. Some of them have also discovered "flags of convenience" as one of the vehicles to pursue further cost cutting, a way of putting social dumping into practice.

What is social dumping?
Social dumping is the practice of profiting from the difference in protection of workers from different regions or sectors. Some employers hire the least protected workers with the cheapest salary and inferior working conditions to increase profit margins while preventing or reducing the collective representation of workers, geographically illustrated by the phenomenon of delocalisation/offshoring. At sectorial level social dumping is visible when employers reduce their personnel costs by using (agency) temporary workers, subcontracting, bogus self-employment, non-organised workers and precarious contracts.

What are flags of convenience?
One of the vehicles to pursue social dumping are flags of convenience. The term ‘flag of convenience (FoC)’ is defined by the Oxford dictionary as ‘A flag of a country under which a ship is registered in order to avoid financial charges or restrictive regulations in the owner’s country’. Cheap registration fees, low or no taxes and freedom to employ cheap labour are the motivating factors behind a decision to 'flag out'. In civil aviation, some airlines deliberately choose to move their (fictive) headquarters to another country in order to avoid taxes or social legislation and/or hire non-European crew in order to reduce labour costs.

How to fight social dumping?
Conscious of the challenges social dumping is posing, the ETF Civil Aviation Section (CAS) has adopted 11 proposals to fight social dumping and flags of convenience in European aviation in June 2014. These proposals include concrete policy answers and legislative proposals for the EU decision-makers and legislators.

With the view to support the implementation of these 11 proposals, the ETF CAS decided, in November 2014, to launch a campaign against social dumping and for quality jobs in European aviation.

Galerie AGORA, Rue du Marché aux Herbes 105, Boîte 11 B - 1000 Bruxelles  |  +32 2 285 46 60   |
Galerie AGORA, Rue du Marché aux Herbes 105, Boîte 11 B - 1000 Bruxelles  |  +32 2 285 46 60   |