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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.
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.