Fit for 55 package: fit for aviation workers?

16 Mar 2022

If the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us anything at all, it’s that policymakers must always listen to the voices of transport workers when discussing policies impacting or regulating the transport sector.

Workers and their unions across the globe are aware that we only have one planet and to care for it means to care for present and future generations of working families. They know that there is no work on a dead planet and that new viruses and extreme climate events are on the horizon as long as exploitation of natural resources, depletion of biodiversity and pollution keep being the overlooked negative externalities of our capitalist system. Aviation workers, in particular, who have suffered years of liberalisation in the sector, the deterioration of working conditions and collective bargaining, care about their jobs, livelihoods and the impact their industry has on the environment. Nevertheless, they cannot be the ones to pay the price.

One of the most important issues we want to raise with our ETF Civil Aviation position on the European Commission’s Fit for 55 package is just transition and how environmental and social sustainability can go hand in hand if workers’ needs and voice are taken into account.

It is well known the aviation sector accounts for 2% of global CO2 emissions. Even though it is less compared to other industries, the aviation sector has a significant role to play in mitigating the effect of climate change by reducing CO2 and non-CO2 emissions and correctly playing its part to achieve environmental sustainability.

Of course, aviation workers must be key actors of change in the sector. Still, for this to happen, we need to make sure the future legislation will enforce complete sustainability, combining social sustainability with environmental one. From our point of view, it is unrealistic to expect to green the industry without considering the quality of jobs and how the transition will affect workers.

In our position paper, we promote a model of sustainability where workers and their trade unions fight for a prosperous future in aviation which is an industry with huge potential to become ever more sustainable. Our views touch on the following proposals:

  • the Amended EU Emission Trading System (ETS) for Aviation;
  • Energy taxation directive;
  • Protecting against carbon leakage
  • A Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism;
  • Or ReFuelEU Aviation’ Alternative Fuel Infrastructure.

While the ETF supports the effort to green the industry and actually calls for more ambition, we also call for maintaining a level playing field and protecting workers’ rights: tax measures, progressive obligation to uptake sustainable aviation fuels and any other measure impacting on costs, the potential consequences on labour should always be evaluated. Not least, proper training in handling the new fuels and technologies should be in place for the ground staff workers together with an assessment of their potential damage to workers’ health.

Read whole position paper here.