Reports of “Management by fear” in EASA: Union activity is not the problem

9 Jun 2021

The ETF is deeply concerned about the reports on the internal management style at EASA which were highlighted by Politico on June 1. As the representative body of all aviation workers in Europe we have seen first-hand the damage to workers and indeed to air safety caused by a “management by fear” which is attested to in the report. Therefore, we are deeply alarmed by the claims that this is potentially the style of management employed by EASA whose role is to protect air safety and promote just culture throughout the aviation industry.

On many occasions, the ETF have reported breaches of just culture practices in airlines and other aviation employers to EASA which stem solely from a negative managerial approach and lead to a fear-driven culture which has proven to result in safety incidents. Therefore, we are deeply concerned to see that potentially the same standards we have reported are being applied in the aviation regulator itself, which runs the risk of creating an uneasy double standard, or worse a deterioration of just culture standards stemming from the top of EASA.

The ETF has always recognised that in a safety-critical environment the relationship between staff and management must have trust and respect at the core of its foundation, not simply to be a good employer, but, that the safety of the public can be assured and overseen properly.

Whilst many airlines now boast business models putting cost control managed by fear at the heart of their culture, such as Wizz Air, whose shameful practices have been recently whistleblown to the media. We are surprised and alarmed that the agency that is now directly tasked with promoting shared safety responsibility between all the key stakeholders in such airlines, is itself possibly being contaminated by the growing commercial industry values of ‘fear and intimidation’.

Long term safety can only come from a culture that promotes respect, trust and encourages innovation.

Fundamentally, we condemn the comments in the discharge report which noted “the increasing rate of union affiliation in the agency” and that it is “worried that this might be related to continuing social tensions”. Any organisation under the EU institutions must promote collective bargaining, social dialogue and trade union rights within its organisation, and we condemn the insinuation that there is a link between union affiliation rates and social tensions by the Committee on Budgetary Control and the parliamentary rapporteur Mr. Brudzinski.  The clear lack of satisfaction of staff in the workplace shows the need for union organising and meaningful social dialogue in EASA, and we support any attempts to organise any workplace in a meaningful, legal and legitimate way, including in EASA.

We would hope that EASA management and staff representatives can resolve their issues through collective bargaining and that the agency can return the focus of bad practice to those airlines who continue to use fear and intimidation as a tool to maintain order, staff discipline and cost. The agency should lead by example and we call on all involved to set this example.