The liberalisation of air transport in the early 1990s brought some benefits to passengers in terms of access to transport, cheaper air fares and a diversified offer. But there are many hidden costs and unfortunately workers did not come out as winners. The quality of jobs in aviation has deteriorated while some posts are disappearing, being outsourced, or being replaced by cheaper work.
The continuous pressure to reduce costs, which started within the low fare sector and spilled over to the network or full-service carriers, has intensified competition. Workers pay the price. We see an increased share of atypical forms of employment, such as agency work, zero-hour contracts or even (bogus) self-employment. This has all made work in aviation more precarious.
What is more, the EU institutions take advantage of economic and social problems to make substantial amendments to the regulations that govern the aviation sector. In any times of economic difficulty, they insatiably request further market liberalisation and competition.
In addition to this push towards unfair competition, which is carried on the backs of EU workers, we are facing the expansion of new business models. These are often facilitated by forum shopping and the use of flags of convenience. There is also pressure from non-European airlines which do not respect workers’ rights. All of this has created a never-ending downward spiral for aviation workers.
New challenges are constantly arising in European civil aviation. That is why the Civil Aviation Section recently adopted an ambitious work programme for the period 2017-2021. The main theme is the fight against social dumping and flags of convenience through which we aim to achieve Fair Aviation for All. This goal is in line with the ETF’s overall Fair Transport Europe campaign.
The safety of workers and passengers must remain the number one priority. Therefore, we believe that the whole aviation safety chain, including airlines, airports, independent ground handling companies and air traffic management, must be covered by adequate safety rules. One of our key aims is to ensure that aviation retains its reputation as the safest mode of transport, while offering fair opportunities to everyone involved. Of course, that includes workers.