In 2021, the European Transport Workers’ Federation (ETF) called for a number of changes to be made to the aviation sector to ensure the industry could recover quickly from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The ETF called regulators to ensure that people would be at the heart of the aviation sector and repeatedly asked to maintain the staffing levels. Unfortunately, nobody listened. So now that COVID restrictions have been lifted and summer travel has rolled in, with staffing often still at COVID levels, workers are being pushed beyond their limits and passengers are angry over cancelled flights.
On one side, millions of discontent passengers are suffering from cancellations of flights or significant delays all across Europe, and the overstretched aviation workers are being asked day after day to work beyond exhaustion to cover for the staff shortages in aviation.
On the other side: the European Commission, governments and regulators, seem to be totally disconnected and utterly uninterested in the dramatic reality the industry is facing. They remain completely still and silent, almost in a defying way.
The ETF General Secretary, Livia Spera, stated:
“The aviation workers cannot take it anymore.”
“They have been under significant pressure for quite some time now, and it is clear this has reached boiling point. They are being stretched to their limits without any reward; we want better working conditions and fair pay for them. Enough is enough! Thus, we support the lawful industrial actions taken by our affiliates and encourage our affiliates to continue to fight throughout the summer. Now is the time to fundamentally change the sector, the aviation industry cannot continue on as it did before the pandemic.”
The ETF supports all industrial action of its aviation members this summer and expects there to be much more disruption and industrial action as the summer develops. Yet the ETF calls on passengers not to blame the workers for the disasters in the airports, the cancelled flights, the long queues and longer time for check-ins, and lost luggage or delays caused by decades of corporate greed and a removal of decent jobs in the sector. The ETF considers these are the direct consequences of the failures of governments, employers, and regulators, combined with the greed of some air companies who used the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse to lower the number and quality of jobs in the aviation sector.
The ETF is calling for an immediate change of the way the aviation industry works to make it more suitable to the people, be them workers or passengers, by:
• Collective bargaining, and sectoral social dialogue between all unions and aviation companies in Europe, in line with national applicable or European law.
• Fair pay, decent work, and fair conditions for all aviation workers.
• An end to all forms of precarious work, in particular, bogus self-employment.
• General pay increases to at least match high inflation.
• Protection of EU ownership and control rules within the aviation sector.
• Rejection of the SES2+ proposal in the Air Traffic Control sector, which aims only to liberalize the industry.
• A review of current regulations for Ground Handling services in Europe and an end to the liberalization of the sector.
ETF President, Frank Moreels, reminds that pushing workers to the limit is not new:
“The industry has long been subjected to a race to the bottom in job quality. For decades we have seen the end of decent work and the introduction of jobs with low pay, bad conditions and high workloads. It has been brought on by the push for ‘free market’ economic policies of the EU, which have prioritized the maximization of profits for business owners at the expense of aviation workers across Europe.”
European Transport Workers’ Federation embraces transport trade unions from the European Union, the European Economic Area, and Central and Eastern Europe. The ETF represents more than 5 million transport workers from more than 200 transport unions and 38 European countries.