The liberalisation of air transport in the early 1990s changed how the airline industry in Europe worked, and with it came an influx of cheap airfares and new start-up airlines. But 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 rolled 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. All these have made work in aviation even more precarious.
Moreover, the EU institutions take advantage of economic and social problems to make significant amendments to the aviation sector regulations. They insatiably request further market liberalisation and competition throughout all difficult economic times.
In addition to this push towards unfair competition carried on the backs of EU workers, we are facing the expansion of new business models, including wet-leasing and ACMI operations.
There is also pressure from non-European airlines, which do not respect workers’ rights but benefit from the European consumer. All of this has created a seemingly never-ending downward spiral for aviation workers.
Not so long ago, the COVID-19 crisis practically crippled the industry. Yet, the long-awaited recovery turned into a full recovery for profit, but the exploitation of workers continues. Thus, it has become more evident that the aviation industry needs to change fundamentally to survive in the new post-COVID world.
With challenges constantly arising in European civil aviation, we have an ambitious work programme for the ETF Civil Aviation Section for the 2022-2027 period.
As the largest organisation in Europe representing aviation workers, we favour building a sustainable aviation sector which puts people at its heart.
In our vision, sustainability is two-fold and centred around environmental and social sustainability. The era of greed in the aviation industry must end, and the industry must become one focused on long-term benefits for all rather than a short-term benefits for the few.
We also aim to join forces with our aviation affiliates in our fight to create a diverse and fully democratic European aviation industry. An industry where the rights of all its workers, regardless of wealth, gender, age, ethnicity, sexuality or place of birth, are fully respected. An industry which offers sustainable and healthy jobs with proper working conditions and fair pay.
A sector that provides a more accessible and equitable place for women to work and is ready to listen to the voices of the next generations of trade unionists, including those from Central and Eastern Europe.
Promoting European social values and workers’ rights remain a crucial pillar of our future work – such as freedom of association, social dialogue, diversity, inclusivity, democracy and equality – we will make sure that aviation workers will never again be the biggest victims of a crisis in aviation.