If you have not had the chance to follow progress between the EU and Canada on the negotiation of a comprehensive (or so called 'Open Skies') air transport agreement, here is a brief summary of the official sources of information.
'All EU airlines will be able to operate direct flights to Canada from anywhere in Europe. The Agreement removes all restrictions on routes, prices, or the number of weekly flights between Canada and the EU. Other traffic rights will be liberalised gradually in parallel with the opening up of investment opportunities. The agreement will finally establish a full Open Aviation Area between the EU and Canada. EU nationals will be able to establish operations in Canada and freely invest in Canadian airlines and vice versa.'
Both the European Commission and the Canadian Ministry of Transport congratulate themselves for the setting up of such a competitive environment. This agreement, initialled at the end of November last year, encapsulates the steps for a progressive grant of traffic rights and liberalisation of investment opportunities. If you read the official press releases you will also find important information on safety, security and environmental issues, but nothing else.
A European pilot operating long haul flights might miss the social dimension? Indeed you might wonder if once based in Canada and operating domestic flights, will you still have the possibility to be represented effectively? Will your current Member Association still be entitled to do it? Will you have to become a member of ALPA Canada? Which employment rights will protect you based in Canada, if your European company fires you?
ECA had high expectations for this agreement; unfortunately once again the social dimension has been completely scorned. The European Commission, in its original proposal, remembered that all the signatory parties of the new air transport agreement have also signed the ILO declaration on fundamental principles and rights at work that embraces the freedom of association and the effective recognition and enforcement to collective bargaining. Regrettably and paradoxically both delegations subsequently concluded that this provision should not be applicable to this agreement. How can the 27 European Member States and Canada refuse to recognise workers' fundamental rights? How can international and European social Charters be so badly flouted?
The only tool in the agreement left to Pilots' Associations from both side of the Atlantic is the monitoring of the effects of this comprehensive liberalisation. Shall we start by reporting the 345 flight attendants that Air Canada have just laid off from its transatlantic flights?