Following unilateral salary cuts and the employer’s refusal to negotiate a collective agreement, air traffic controllers in Tirana declared a temporary inability to work due to stress earlier this week. As a consequence, more than a dozen flights to and from Tirana International Airport were cancelled.
Albanian authorities reacted to this decision by force and sent in troops and police to clear the air traffic controllers out of the flight control tower. There have also been several reports of air traffic controllers being arrested or taken into police custody. Meanwhile, prime minister Edi Rama threatened legal action against protesting workers and threatened to fire those who refused to return to work.
This unnecessarily violent response by the state only aggravates an already difficult situation workers are facing after more than a year of uncertainty and stress.
The ETF stands in solidarity with the protesting workers and condemns the aggressive backlash of the state. The right to protest and the right to strike are fundamental rights of workers and must be respected. We call on the state to recognise the key role of air traffic controllers and engage in a constructive dialogue.
In September 2020, the European Commission published a new proposal on the Single European Sky regulatory framework. The European Parliament and the Council are now in the process of establishing their position on the proposal, and so is the ETF, jointly with our affiliates.
The ETF, representing more than 25,000 Air Traffic Controllers and ATM Staff, has been supportive of the overall idea of a Single European Sky from the very beginning of the process. However, the ETF has been opposing the use of SES as an instrument to further unnecessarily liberalise ATM services and causing negative social consequences for workers.
The Commission’s proposal on the SES2+ recast does exactly that – it tries to introduce competition into some fields with a mandatory separation between supervisory authorities and service providers, and a mandatory application of market principles for the aerodrome air traffic services, as well as functional and budgetary separation for all ATM services, with performance requirements driven almost only by cost reduction. In doing so, the proposal fails to address many actual issues of the sector.
With regard to the drafting process, the ETF deeply regrets the lack of willingness of the Commission to take into account the feedback they had during roundtable discussions that led to the high-level declaration on Digital European Sky. The Commission also ignored the existing consultation tools to engage with the social partners on SES issues like the ATM working group of the aviation sectoral social dialogue and the SES Expert Group on Human Dimension. The ETF also notes that the current crisis was not taken into account when drafting this proposal. The failure to incorporate lessons from the past demonstrates once again the Commission’s unhealthy, one-sided approach to policymaking in the ATM field.
In response to the Commission’s latest proposal, the ETF issued a position paper on SES2 recast, available here.
The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) has today launched its first position paper on remote tower operations, striking to the heart of a key issue for the future of global aviation.
Air traffic services are vital to the safety and efficiency of the aviation sector and the wider global economy, managing national and international airspace for the public good. While these services have traditionally been provided on-site at airports, technological developments are raising the possibility of so-called ‘remote tower’ operations.
While generally supportive of new technologies in the field of air traffic services, the ITF and its affiliates are seriously concerned about the current direction of national and international policy on remote towers. Unless policymakers take great care in the development of these operations, they risk causing serious damage to aviation safety, public confidence in air travel and regional economies for the sake of minor and still unproven cost reductions in service provision.
The ITF’s new report, Safe Skies, is the first major contribution to the debate from a worker and union perspective. In particular, it highlights the need for workers and their unions to be at the table from the beginning to help proactively shape national and international policy on remote tower operations, rather than be excluded until the end.
Gabriel Mocho Rodriguez, ITF civil aviation secretary, said: “Remote tower operations are an incredibly important innovation in the world of aviation. They have the potential to overhaul how the entire sector operates, but there are also serious risks involved. That’s why policymakers need to make sure that all parties, including workers and unions, are involved in making decisions on the use of this technology.”
As part of its work on the reset of the aviation sector after Covid-19, the ITF is also commissioning major new research into future models for air navigation service providers (ANSPs). Please get in touch if you are interested in receiving a preview of the findings and recommendations.
Covid-19 demonstrated that aviation is a critical strategic infrastructure and service, providing essential connectivity, promoting socio-economic cohesion and timely supply of goods, thus serving our societies.
The professionals working in aviation – who provide a safe & dedicated service – are a crucial part of the aviation ecosystem: both before, during and after the crisis, and any potential recurrence thereof, and during the recovery – which is expected to be of unpredictable length.
This strategic infrastructure, service and its people deserve priority attention. To do so, policy-makers and aviation stakeholders must use the crisis to rethink the ‘old’ system and to ‘repair’ its structural weaknesses and distortions that the crisis revealed – which, if unaddressed, will hinder the recovery, weaken the aviation sector, and harm the public interest.
The statement is available here.
This ETF statement is identical to and supportive of the statement by other aviation professionals’ organisations available here.
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, ETF Civil Aviation Section has been representing the civil aviation workers of Europe, providing feedback to measures introduced by the various authorities and putting forward concrete plans. The responses so far are combined in the new plan for European aviation that introduces short- and the long- term measures, covers all the different areas of civil aviation, and embraces social and environmental sustainability.
Please download the plan here
Air traffic Management (ATM) as part of the wider aviation industry is facing the most significant crisis in its history. ATM staff continues to provide an essential service to ensure flights can continue to operate, with cargo and medical flights playing a particularly important role at the moment. Despite the vital importance of the industry, there are several crucial on-going issues. These are relevant to the continuing provision of ATM services now and, even more importantly, in the future, after we emerge from the current situation.