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Council agrees its position on air traffic management reform, echoing ATM workers’ concerns

The ETF welcomes the Council position on the reform of the Single European Sky. The 27 EU Member States today unanimously endorsed the modified text of the Air Traffic Management (ATM) reform prepared by the Portuguese Presidency.

While the Member States made it clear they support the overall objective of the proposed reform – to improve the European ATM system – they reject some of the measures proposed by the Commission as they deem them unjustified and lacking a rigorous cost-benefit analysis, a concern the ETF have been raising ever since the Commission SES2+ recast proposal was introduced in September 2020. The Portuguese Presidency has come up with a compromised text reflecting some of these concerns.

National sovereignty takes precedence

The ETF welcomes the following changes introduced by the Members States to the Commission’s initial SES2+ proposal. In particular, the ETF is pleased the Member States and the Portuguese Presidency do not give in to the various pressures and keep in mind the ATM is a critical infrastructure whose purpose is to serve all citizens and travelling public while ensuring safety at all times.

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ETF condemns attacks on air traffic controllers in Albania

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.

ATCEUC and ETF Statement on Fundamental Review of EUROCONTROL Agency’s activities by Deloitte

On the initiative of its Director General Mr Eamonn Brennan, EUROCONTROL commissioned a “fundamental review” of the Agency’s activities. The contract was awarded to Deloitte in September 2020 and a final report was published at the end of January.
Both ETF and ATCEUC agree that despite its ambitions, the review and its 17
recommendations appear nothing more than a collection of incoherent statements, without any in-depth analysis of their effectiveness, their impact or their cost. It is extremely surprising that Deloitte considered this report fit for publication: for one, it clearly goes well beyond the terms of reference, to the point of suggesting significant institutional changes to the Agency’s setup – something that was explicitly excluded from the scope of the review.


Charles - André Quesnel, Chair of the ETF ATM Committee, added: “The review makes vague,completely unsubstantiated projections of cost savings while clearly risking disruptions to service delivery of Maastricht UAC, Europe’s only cross-border ATC centre, and other essential services of the Agency such as training and research and development. Some recommendations will substantially increase the costs for the airspace users and Member States, as Mr Brennan appears to be prepared to drastically change the core mission of the Agency as an independent and neutral entity at the service of both the States and the airspace users.”


Volker Dick, President of ATCEUC, noted: “While the report is concerning in itself, we are extremely disturbed by the methodology, or more precisely the lack thereof, that Deloitte used. All stakeholders were asked different questions, and we have the distinct impression that staff representatives were only included to give an impression of objectivity. None of the
questions we were asked, and certainly none of the answers, are reflected in the report.”
Mr Dick continued: “The study is nothing more than a very obvious attempt from Mr Brennan to hollow-out the EUROCONTROL Agency and to push more things towards privatized subsidiaries of the larger ANSPs. The distress this review has caused within the Agency and beyond – the study recommends a privatized Maastricht UAC takes over the Karlsruhe
airspace – is considerable. Many of our members have expressed anxiety and concerns for their immediate future. In a safety-critical, operational environment and during a global health crisis of unseen proportions, it shows a complete lack of managerial responsibility for the well-being of the Agency’s staff!”

Single European Sky reform mustn’t be used to further liberalise ATM services

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.

ITF launches first position paper on remote tower operations

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 and aviation: Time to rethink!

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.

ETF to stop all activities linked to DG MOVE in ATM field over attacks to jobs and working conditions

ETF has decided to stop all activities related to DG MOVE in the air traffic management field for the next three months, after receiving several reports of employers being pushed by two of DG MOVE officials to lower ANSPs’ labour costs. ETF believes these activities are in line with the interests of airspace users. However, their interests cannot be protected and favoured over workers’ interests. This demonstrates, once again, the strong influence of airspace users over the European Commission to the detriment of other actors in the aviation system.

With these actions, the Commission has overstepped the boundaries of its role. Its duty is not to come up with such suggestion, as the institution does not have any competences regarding working relations between employers and employees. Such behaviour is also in conflict with the work of national authorities and tries to undermine them. National authorities have taken different approaches to deal with the COVID-19 crisis, and many put various employment protections in place to prevent a social crisis. It is unclear why two European civil servants believe it is in their power to push for laying off ANSPs’ employees and cutting their pay.

The main motive behind these lobbying efforts seems to be a desire to take advantage of an already difficult situation for the aviation industry. ANSPs have been facing a total absence of revenues since the beginning of March while maintaining 24/7 services. The work and dedication of ETF members need to be recognised, and all efforts directed at supporting ATM employees, instead of lobbying against them.

After providing continuous and flawless service during COVID-19, helping bring European citizens home and transport masks and other vital health care equipment, the news of DG MOVE working against ANSPs’ employees is a slap in the face. ETF condemns the civil servants’ actions during these already difficult times for aviation workers around the continent and demand clarifications on the subject. Until then, ETF is stopping our cooperation with DG MOVE in the field of ATM.

COVID-19 : A plan for European aviation

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

Take action to prevent collision

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.

COVID-19: ETF calls for an aviation rescue plan and EU fund to help protect a strategic industry

European aviation has been amongst the first industries to be impacted by the COVID-19 crisis and will be one of the hardest hit. Support to the workforce and the industry will ensure a lifeline for the sector that will guarantee its recovery after the pandemic. ETF calls for conditional financial aid to aviation-sector companies and immediate support to all workers in civil aviation, with special attention given to the most vulnerable among them.

Workers that make European aviation move are a heterogeneous group – from aircrew, over air traffic management to ground handling, catering and cleaning staff. In large parts of aviation, precarious work prevails over traditional work contracts, and zero-hour contracts or temporary agency work are booming. Precarious workers’ salaries are significantly below national averages and in some cases even below the poverty line. These groups of workers were immediately affected by the COVID-19 crisis as they had no reserve to fall back on.

ETF calls on the European Institutions and the Member States to put in place a rescue plan consisting of direct support for workers as well as conditional financial aid to aviation-sector companies. 

Financial assistance can only be granted if the respective company respects job retention and income protection measures. All aviation companies must be aware of their social responsibility and make sure that their most valuable asset – the workforce – is adequately protected.

Any financial aid to aviation-sector companies should also be conditional on a ban on pay-out of dividends to shareholders in 2020 (as a minimum) and a ban on stock buybacks by companies.

EU must ensure that the European idea of integration and democracy materialises for the working people and specifically for the most vulnerable.

Please download the statement here :

info@etf-atm.org