Air Transport Agreements (ATAs) are international agreements between the EU and non-EU countries, known as third countries. ATAs bring all existing bilateral air services agreements between EU Member States and a given third country into line with EU law. The European Commission negotiates ATAs on behalf of EU member states.
These agreements can have a major impact on the European aviation sector and its workers. Fairness and a level playing field must be at the heart of all ATAs, and the ETF has always called for reciprocity in terms of market access and employment opportunities. Moreover, any agreement must provide the highest safety, labour and social standards, with protection of jobs and working conditions.
The EU often concludes ATAs with countries that have very different cost levels and social standards. Therefore, we believe that ATAs must acknowledge social issues to ensure that any imbalance will not be detrimental to European workers – or, for that matter, the European airlines on whose economic wellbeing they depend. The European aviation industry is facing difficult times, and only balanced ATA agreements will avoid further deterioration and job losses for European aviation workers.
All of this means that trade unions and employers (social partners) must be consulted in the development of ATAs. ETF calls on negotiators to prioritise progress in those areas where reciprocity and fairness will ensure equal opportunities: market access; right of establishment; ownership; code-sharing; government subsidies; cabotage. We also request that ATAs include references to ILO standards and to EU and international social rights. Ultimately negotiators should look for agreements that reflect not only the business concerns of the industry but also the legitimate concerns of EU aviation workers.
Influencing the negotiations around ATAs is difficult but a priority for the ETF. For example, we are proud to have played a key role in the introduction of the first social clause in the EU-USA ATA. This clause stresses that free markets in aviation are most beneficial when accompanied by high labour standards, and ensures that the US and EU must monitor the social impact of their ATA and resolve relevant concerns. In the future, such clauses should be present in all ATAs, more strongly worded and clearly enforceable.
A list of countries with which the EU has or is negotiation an ATA can be found on the European Commission website. https://ec.europa.eu/transport/modes/air/international_aviation/country_index_en