Prioritising workers, it is the only way towards a sustainable aviation sector

20 Jul 2023

To ensure its own survival, the aviation industry must prioritise its workers and place them at the core of all its policies. It is the first step towards ending the exploitation of aviation workers.

The ETF welcomes the recent report published by Greenpeace, which reveals an urgent need for better working conditions and employment standards in the aviation industry.

It points towards low-cost airlines that ‘have exploited every loophole and [used every] trick in the book to be as competitive as possible. At the expense of the planet and the climate, but also of workers and customers.’  Low-cost airlines became competitive by exploiting their workers, indicates the organisation in its ‘Ticket prices of planes VS trains – a Europe-wide analysis.’

Focusing on ‘how low-cost carriers destroy the climate while their unfair and aggressive pricing strategies go unchecked’, the report emphasises that working conditions at most low-cost carriers operating in Europe have been reduced to the legal minimum.

Not only do they pay lower salaries to their understaffed personnel, but they are also obliging part of them to work under self-employment forms. As explained in the report, low-cost air companies continue to take full advantage of the loopholes in national labour laws and the complexity of the sector’s functioning through multiple layers of EU and international rules and regulations.

Not only is the aviation industry not appealing anymore, but aviation workers are also mostly left alone to face other possible unjust or illegal decisions the employers may take based on jurisdiction or legal complexity. Just for the simple fact that – as indicated in the same report – some low-cost carriers want their workers silent and, thus, do not allow them to unionise. This is another breach of the workers’ legal rights on which ETF continues to have zero tolerance – the right to unionise.

Moreover, as many aviation workers, particularly in Eastern Europe, are self-employed, they have limited social protection, while the airlines benefit from substantial direct or indirect local or regional subsidies. It is unacceptable! The industry must not accept double standards: the same sector cannot be a gold mine for employers while being an abusive work environment for people working in the industry. Such an imbalanced situation puts the entire sector at high risk, threatening its own existence.

At the ETF, we will continue to fight for a sustainable aviation sector where workers are not taken for granted but instead guarantees a work environment built on safety, just culture and democratic participation of workers.

Let’s be clear: there is no aviation industry without its workers!