First trans-Atlantic Aviation Labour Forum

The EU-US 'Open Skies' agreement, which entered into force last March, contains clauses which require the US and EU administrations to address its 'social effects'. These very innovative clauses resulted from the efforts of ECA and US-ALPA.

As a result, the European Commission last week hosted the first "EU-US Aviation Forum on Liberalisation and Labour" in Washington. In a packed conference room, ECA and ALPA, ETF and other US Labour Organisations, officials from the EU and US and airline executives discussed employees' concerns resulting from the liberalisation of the trans-Atlantic market.

Captain Carlos Salas, Chair of the ECA External Relations Working Group, detailed the concerns raised by the liberalisation of the aviation market in Europe. The 3rd Package has enabled truly pan-European airlines to grow, has resulted in a large proliferation of routes, competitive reductions in fares and many more jobs for ECA's members. However, it has also raised the difficult question of how such a multi-national pilot group can elect representatives, negotiate appropriate terms and conditions, and how such agreements would have legal certainty.

Captain Rick Brennan, IFALPA's Professional Affairs Consultant, explained how the EU-US stage 1 agreement had extended this question to network airlines. In a previous role, he had represented pilots for British Airways when they sought to set up a Manchester base for B757s operated to New York. Then, BALPA and BA had negotiated appropriate terms and conditions for the new company, ensuring that all pilots were on the BA master seniority list. This year BA had set up 'Open Skies' following the implementation of the Open Skies treaty, to operate B757s from Paris to New York. Instead of the negotiated compromise of the previous occasion, BA this time abused the legal provisions of the European legislation to deny BALPA the ability to represent its members' strongly held views.

ECA's President, Captain Martin Chalk finally laid out ECA's concerns with any further liberalisation of the Trans-Atlantic market, without appropriate regulations governing collective bargaining. He urged reform to ensure all the competitive gains of the European and Trans-Atlantic liberalisation were not squandered by poor people management practices.

Daniel Calleja Crespo, Director for Civil Aviation at the European Commission, in his conclusion, recognised the concerns over an inadequate legal framework, insufficient job protections and quality standards. He also acknowledged the need for a European level collective bargaining framework and suggested a further forum next year in Brussels.

ECA will again be at the heart of those discussions.