EU-US Aviation Agreement One Year On

One year after the implementation of the first stage EU-US agreement, time has come to analyse its first effects. From an air crew perspective, these effects are the first signs of a number of undesirable developments we can anticipate on a wider scale in the coming years. They also raise serious questions for the ongoing 2nd stage negotiations between the EU and the US.

We have asked for an explanation as to why British Airways, in establishing its subsidiary 'OpenSkies' in Paris and Amsterdam, has been allowed by European legislation to scorn the basic fundamental rights of its workers to be collectively represented. We have asked how United Airline and Aer Lingus have been allowed to undermine pilots' unions' strength in setting up joint operations using Aer Lingus aircraft between Washington Dulles and Madrid Barajas. Will United Airlines' current pilots be entitled to bid for these new positions? No, they are not part of the expansion strategy of the company in which they have put all their energy and considerable financial concessions. What about the current Aer Lingus pilots? They might perhaps apply for the job if they fulfill the US legal requirements for workers and if they accept to work without knowing the social law applicable to them. Will it be the Irish law? The American Railway Labour Act? Spanish social law? Nobody knows, not even the relevant authorities who have so far failed to answer.

The first stage EU-US agreement has widened market opportunities for the airlines. However, the legislation that regulates employment has not been widened or adapted to the transatlantic, cross-jurisdictional nature of the operations. It is short-sighted to let the companies undermine the right for pilots to be collectively represented. A stage 2 EU-US agreement cannot allow these social issues to be unaddressed. As ECA has said previously: if we undermine the carefully developed industrial relations structures, we risk returning to the industrial strife which was commonplace beforehand.