On the 14th and 15th March 2012, the European Transport Workers’ Federation (ETF) arranged a conference in Torremolinos, gathering over 100 representatives of workers. Employers and Commision addressed the conference. The discussions were based around current developments in civil aviation with regard to the growing demand for low fares airlines (LFAs).
To defend the workers of the Low Fares Airlines!
On the 14th and 15th March 2012, the European Transport Workers’ Federation (ETF) arranged a conference in Torremolinos, gathering over 100 representatives of
workers. Employers and Commision addressed the conference. The discussions were based around current developments in civil aviation with regard to the growing demand for low fares airlines (LFAs). The priority topics for the conference were the effects of the Single European Aviation Market in the early’s 1990s, the creation and the development of the LFAs, the analysis of the introduction of new terms and conditions for aviation workers, the presentation of four cases (Ryanair, EasyJet, Vueling and Air Berlin) and the ETF proposals to defend the workers inside of the LFAs.
This conference has confirmed that the development of these LFAs has dramatically changed the European air transport market following liberalization. The new entrants challenged the traditional way of running an airline and pursue new business models which offer strong competition to the traditional network airlines.
These changes have affected the European civil aviation labor market, as the pressure on the costs is veryhigh and in particular on the labor costs but also the relations between the airlines and their contractors, especially the ground handling companies, which provide the services to the airlines.
The ETF is not opposed to LFAs. It is reasonable to expect, however, that they respect the same norms and standards generally applicable to other enterprises
within civil aviation. Competition must be grounded in a better product or more efficient operations, not synthetically lower salaries and employment contracts
resembling indentured servitude. In industries with transnational operations, social dumping has an effect not only on the exploited employee, but also on the workforce in the surrounding countries as pressure is put on the competition to comply with substandard business methods. Salaries, conditions of employment and inevitably even the rate of employment are affected to the detriment of society in general.
A number of LFAs treat their staff decently and have even signed collective bargaining agreements guaranteeing respectable terms and conditions. Others use
any means to avoid the influence of trade unions. The issue for ETF is not to describe the negative aspects and maintain that this situation must not prevail. It is
rather how to dominate the situation and produce a constructive result.
Several LFAs avoid directly employing aircrew and ground staff in the airline, preferring outsourcing the employment to external agencies. Furthermore, if a
collective agreement were to be established, it would of course be with the temporary employment agency and therefore one more adapted to that branch rather than to civil aviation. It is yet another question how such an agreement would be negotiated, who would be party to the agreement and where the legal venue would be based.
On the other hand, if there are different LFA’s models, they all influence the pressure on the ground handling services, the turnarounds, the employee’s productivity, the services to passengers and the use of internet as the only way of buying the airplane ticket. They promote the creation of what is called “The low cost model” in the whole civil aviation chain because all companies tend to compete with them on the costs, which have a strong pressure on the employee working conditions and training.
The ETF recognises that the European Union must adapt the current European legal framework in order to complete the vacuum that exists today as regards the
protection of workers in this new environment and especially concerning mobile staff.
The ETF also decided to develop strategies to legitimate trade union representation in all LFAs and to defend the workers in these new companies.
We would like to thank the European Commission for their support in funding for this project. We thank the consultants Peter Turnbull (Cardiff University) and Geraint
Harvey (Swansea University) for their work in the launching of the research study, in preparing both the pre-conference document and in writing the report of the study and the conference.