Success stories of social dialogue: civil aviation

The European Commission launched a special edition of the EU Social Dialogue newsletter, with a specific feature dedicated to success stories on 31 sectoral social dialogue achievements at European level. The newsletter features an interview with Emmanuel Jahan, Chair of the Civil Aviation Sectoral Social Dialogue Committee and Jon Horne, Vice-Chair of the Committee and ECA Vice-President. 

What is the most recent success story of the Civil Aviation sectoral social dialogue committee?

Emmanuel: The most recent success of the committee is clearly the change of the current regulation on social security schemes for Air Transport in May 2012. This regulation was not suitable to the mobile workers (air crews) in civil aviation and the committee has succeed to define a common position to determine the applicable law in this matter and to convince the policy makers to change the current regulation.
Jon: This approach aimed to ease understanding of the rules by simplified criteria and to avoid abuses leading to social dumping and unfair competition. Globalisation has increased the productivity of airlines both within and outside of Europe but some of them are using illegal or borderline means at the expense of other air carriers and workers. Our common action aimed to maintain fair rules in the market.

Why addressing the social security schemes in particular?

Emmanuel: For safety in Air Transport, we have a regulation (EU OPS) that uses the usual airport ("home base") of the aircrew member as a criterion. The applicable labour law is nowadays determined by the Member State in or from which the aircrew member is carrying his (her) duties including de facto the "home base". We needed to put in line the social security regulation with these two regulations to reach a better visibility and a legal certainty.
Jon: The usual workplace is the reference for the Court of Justice of the EU to determine the rights of the worker. Our action follows just this principle. We need to lay down common rules in accordance with the European social model in which workers and employers are aware that unfair social competition is not the solution to improve competitiveness in the long run.

What did your action consist of exactly?
 
Emmanuel: The social partners involved in Air Transport, have signed a common text in which they required a change of the current regulation and have suggested to the European Institutions to use the "home base" as the only one criterion.
This common statement has been a very efficient tool for our campaign to the European representatives of the European Parliament and also the Council.
Jon: The task was difficult because the European Commission had a different opinion on the way to reach to a state of fair competition. But this way was so complex that no airline would ever be able to run in accordance with the potential new rules. Had the Commission proposal been implemented it would have had a high chance of failure.
We had to convince the representatives of the European Commission to propose a text in accordance with the reality of our industry and the use of the "home base" has finally be adopted as the most realistic criterion to determine the applicable social security system.
 
What did your action aim to achieve?
Emmanuel: The key objectives of our action were:
  • To make aware of this issue our representatives, included the national bodies of the Member States and the social security systems.
  • To launch a European reflection on this topic.
  • To change the current regulation.
But a transitional period of 10 years has been foreseen and this is a current worry of the social partners.
Jon: The action also clearly aimed:
  • To contribute to the aims of the Europe 2020 Strategy by promoting employment and decent work.
  • To extend such a reflection to employment in the other activities of the Civil Aviation Social Dialogue because some employees on ground have the same concern.
What are the key results of the action?
 
Emmanuel: The Regulation has been changed (465/2012/EC) and the "home base" is the only criterion to determine the applicable social security scheme.
Jon: The regulations in line with the "home base" will facilitate understanding of the rules and should decrease social dumping. But this aim needs the involvement of labour administrations "to play the game" if we are to achieve a complete process.
 
What are the next steps?
 
Emmanuel: The issue of the bogus self-employed workers is important because they are reversing these progresses.
A bogus self-employed worker avoids to his (her) employer to pay social taxes. The Committee has decided to launch a project on this issue and grants have been obtained from the European Funds (budget line "social dialogue").
Jon: This phenomenon is really increasing in some airlines and we need the social partners to take action together. Again, we succeeded in reaching a common position and hope to make our European representatives aware of this new trend to dilute the rights of workers and enterprises, because addressing this problem will have significant benefits for both.