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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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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.

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.

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.

STOP TARGETS ON THE PERFORMANCE SCHEME IN AIR TRAFFIC MANAGEMENT

Prior to the Transport Council of December ETF and the other Professionnal Staff Organisations are giving their views on the actual need and the future of the Single European Sky. The voice of the workers of the european ATM industry needs to be heard.

As representatives of the ATM workers directly involved, we request that there is a pause in the non-achievable targets of the performance scheme. However, we recommend that the SES initiatives focus on realistic and
implementable projects with benefits that can be linked to achievable performance scheme targets. We also demand that the industry and the EU work on common standards that will improve the strongly needed
interoperability of our systems.
Finally, as it started in the EASA, the social impact of any further regulation should be assessed in detail, in order to avoid the mistakes of the past.

NO TO UNBUNDLING FOR THE AIR NAVIGATION SERVICES SPECIALISTS (ANSSs)!

ETF, representing more than 25000 workers in Air Traffic Management services, is the only organisation representing all ATM workers at European level. (see presentation of our ATM committee here) 
Since the beginning of the Single European Sky initiatives, one objective has always been to introduce more market into Air Navigation Services Provision.
We can not support initiatives leading to unbundling of tasks assigned to ANSSs (Air Navigation Services Specialists). The ETF is promoting a cooperative approach to ensure safety through proximity of ATM staff.

More on this leaflet.

SOCIAL DIALOGUE IS NEEDED MORE THAN EVER TO BUILD THE SINGLE EUROPEAN SKY!

Following the first round table discussions on the future of the Single European Sky on 28 May 2019 and the report of the Wise Persons Group (WPG), please find below follow up comments on behalf of the ETF with respect to those discussions and the WPG report.
Overall, we are disappointed that the ETF was not involved at all in the works of the WPG despite the fact that we represent 30.000 employees (in all categories of ATM staff: ATCOs, ATSEPS, AIS, administrative staff).
In addition, there has been little involvement of staff in the recent work involving the evolution of SES:
• Although there was a consultation process for the Airspace Architecture Study (AAS), our inputs were not properly considered. Some concepts such as ADSP bring many social consequences that were not discussed at all.
• Regarding the WPG, all ATM social partners from the employee side are quite critical towards the report. This again is further evidence that the Commission is not adequately considering the expertise of the ATM workers that is available, and it is the daily front line workers that are most aware of the problems the ATM industry is facing today.
There is an unhealthy culture emerging that is suggesting that the recommendations cannot be challenged, and are taken by default as correct. This is a dangerous assumption. Healthy, constructive challenge and exchange of ideas (which ETF strives to provide) can only help to strengthen any proposals going forward.
Finally, the approach followed by the WPG totally ignores the importance of the social dialogue in the EU polices and mechanisms to be implemented. Without a qualitative social dialogue, that allows management and unions to find joint solutions at all levels, including at EU level, any policies or recommendations will encounter concrete difficulties in the definition and implementation phases.

THE ETF REJECTS THE MARKET-DRIVEN APPROACH FOR THE SINGLE EUROPEAN SKY!

Following the report on the Future of the Single European Sky drafted by the ‘Wise Persons Group’ (WPG) created by the European Commission, the ETF deplores that the recommendations are oriented to please the airlines to the detriment of the other stakeholders. The ATM staff are more and more critical to the method which consists of listening mainly officials who have a business-driven sensitiveness against the quality of the service. For the ETF, it is clear that the safety and the security of the passengers and the non-flying citizens on ground are paramount.

The European Transport Workers’ Federation (ETF), which represents more than 15.000 Air Traffic Controllers and all the other categories of the Air Traffic Management (ATM) staff, noticed, for instance, that the Social Dialogue doesn’t exist for the ‘Wise Persons Group’ while it is indispensable to smoothly achieve all the changes proposed in the report. At EU level, the social partners can make recommendations to their members notably to create success stories through a good and genuine social dialogue.

The ETF is not rejecting a digital European sky by a progressive increase of the level of automation support, new technologies as well as the use of interoperable systems. Nevertheless, it is obvious that the modernisation of the European ATM leading to a new organisation of the work, especially at the workplace, needs to be carefully monitor notably through a change management process established together with the staff representatives at all levels. It is a pity that staff such as AIS/AIM had no representative in this WPG.

The ATM is a service of general interest and it is the ETF view that safety seems to play a marginal role for the WPG compared to other criteria such as economic performance. It is the case when the WPG proposes to set up an independent competent economic regulator which would oversee the performance of service providers. The ETF is totally opposed to such a body which will be lobbied by the airlines associations, without a public control.

At the same time, Eurocontrol would have more power as Network Manager (NM), with the risk of becoming a new monopoly, which is against the EU policy. The most important is that the WPG does not mention that the first mission of the NM is safety and not a creator of capacity. Strangely, they want to empower it for managing the capacities of the service providers but not towards the behaviour of the airspace users which is causing a lot of inefficiencies in the network.

In conclusion, the ETF calls the European Commission to organise a round table with all concerned parties to discuss this report in order to come to a more balanced approach. There would be a real added value to ask the opinion of all the EU ATM staff representatives to make the Single European Sky more efficient in the future.

RP3 Open letter to EU member States

Following the adoption of the new performance and charging regulation, the Commission is currently in the process of setting the targets for RP3. We have joined with the other PSOs in expressing our concern at the proposed targets. The targets are broadly more of the same that we saw in RP2 and will do nothing to ease the current capacity problems. The level of cost reduction required is worrying and we are having great difficulty in seeing just how capacity can be improved whilst making savings.
At the next Single Sky Committee meeting at the end of March, it is expected that the Member State representatives will vote on the proposed targets. We have, with the other PSOs, written to those state representatives expressing our concern and asking them to push for a modest rise in costs to help resolve the ongoing capacity problems.

Open letter to EU member states

The Professional Staff Organisations would like to take the opportunity to give our views on the ongoing process of the updating of the Single European Sky Performance and Charging Regulations.

The current PRB proposals for target setting and the last European Commission proposal on RP3 legislation leaves PSOs exasperated. We seriously question how these PRB recommendations and EC proposals can contribute to solve the current problems and to allow the safe and efficient flow of traffic in the European ATM system.

An urgent action plan is needed, with 2 fundamental pillars: providing sufficient safe capacity for summers 2019-2021 and recruiting sufficient Air Traffic Controllers, ATSEPs, needed for the implementation of SESAR technologies while maintaining legacy (existing) systems, and other expert ATM staff. This has to be properly supported by an appropriate performance framework that allows this to happen.
The PSOs turn to EU members states and call for them to be the guarantor of the integrity of the EU aviation sector by pushing for a swift and comprehensive recovery plan for the ATM industry and properly preparing for the medium-term future, involving all stakeholders.

We would urge member states to reject the current proposals.

 

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