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How ‘Social’ is European Aviation?

With every month, European aviation is drifting further & further away from the definition of “Social”. Despite the EU Commission’s pledge to create quality jobs, pilots have experienced a different reality – one with deteriorating conditions & social dumping. 

Take the example of Social Dumping by some airlines. The current European legislation does not specify that employment contracts of pilots fall under national law of the country, where they are based and live in. This creates a very undersirable and detrimental situation where a pilot who lives and works in a country does not fall under the laws and regulation of that same country. This situation is socially unacceptable! 

In October 2017, the European Commission announced to the European Parliament the commitment to move forward on the social agenda of aviation. A “Social package for aviation” was anounced for 2018. 

Despite the EU Commission’s pledge to create quality jobs, pilots have experienced a different reality

And while some airlines should take the time to review the definition of Social Dialogue used by the International Labour Organization (ILO)*, European aviation is in dire need for improvements. We see that Social Dialogue is also not very succesful in legislation and regulations to prevent abuse on multiple social issues. The main problems are created by precarious atypical employment, 3rd country crews, social dumping practices and the mentioned issue around applicable law. But the truth of the current situation is very disappointing as to date there is no strategy with concrete proposals on these issues and the outlook does not create more optimism.

The last couple of months have shown however that not all airlines are capable and willing to engage in genuine “social dialogue”. Ryanair threatened to lay off 100 pilots and 200 cabin crew after a strike in Dublin. The same followed after a strike of German and Dutch pilots, after which Ryanair announced the closure of the Eindhoven base and 2 bases in Germany. Can we still claim that this constitutes Social Dialogue? 

The European Cockpit Association has called on the European Commission to take notice of these unacceptable practices – most recently in an open letter and jointly with several European airlines. We need the Commission to follow up on the promises made to take the ‘social rights’ of European aviation workers seriously by meaningful initiatives and actions.

It is time to act now!

by Capt. Otjan de Bruijn, ECA Vice-President

* What is social dialogue?

Social dialogue is defined by the ILO to include all types of negotiation, consultation or simply exchange of information between, or among, representatives of governments, employers and workers, on issues of common interest relating to economic and social policy. It can exist as a tripartite process, with the government as an official party to the dialogue or it may consist of bipartite relations only between labour and management (or trade unions and employers' organizations), with or without indirect government involvement. Social dialogue processes can be informal or institutionalised, and often it is a combination of the two. It can take place at the national, regional or at enterprise level. It can be inter-professional, sectoral or a combination of these.

The main goal of social dialogue itself is to promote consensus building and democratic involvement among the main stakeholders in the world of work. Successful social dialogue structures and processes have the potential to resolve important economic and social issues, encourage good governance, advance social and industrial peace and stability and boost economic progress. Source: ILO