New forms of “Social Dialogue”

By the end of the year, Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc wants to finalise the new European “Aviation Package” – a legislative package to tackle the most pressing issues in the industry. This has triggered a surge of events and discussions, consultations and conferences, allowing all stakeholders, incl. ECA to share their views and concerns. A side effect of this increased focus on aviation, has been some reshuffling of the lobbying landscape of airlines in Europe.

These past weeks and months in Brussels have revealed the state of the aviation industry in Europe – new, sometimes awkward, alliances seeing the daylight at the expense of previous established traditional partnerships. Such is the example of IAG, owner of among others British Airways and Iberia, which has recently joined the association of Europe’s Low Fare Airlines ELFAA. At the same time its CEO stands at the podium together with those of Air France/KLM, easyJet, Lufthansa & Ryanair, heavily lobbying for reducing the administrative/tax burden on the industry and scrapping air traffic controllers’ right to strike.

While some might expect innovative ideas, or at least some serious proposals, the new alliances seem to pour old wine in new wineskins: calling for liberalisation of the labour market and cutback on the basic right of employees to go on strike. Ryanair has even started an online petition on that issue asking the European Commission to “finally take action”.

Employees won a law case against the same Ryanair in Denmark. In July, the Court granted them the right to represent their legitimate interests in unions and to negotiate collectively with the company. If needed, to use the tool of industrial actions to enforce these. What else did you expect?

I thought we, airlines and crews, were working collectively for the future of our industry in Europe. And I see a vast amount of problems we actually could act on jointly. But it seems that the leaders of our employing companies have made plans without their employees for what they see as their brighter vision for the industry: an ultra-liberal approach with no unnecessary ‘obstacles’ standing in the way of growth.

If airline management run out of ideas, then we do need to be concerned about the state of the industry and its future.

by Dirk Polloczek