Thumbs up for Commissioner Thyssen’s direct language on unacceptable employment practices, and her call for local labour law to apply to air crews’ contracts. Thumbs down for EU Transport Commissioner Bulc, who does not seem to see the social upheavals and real problems around her in European aviation (see article in De Standaard), European Cockpit Association (ECA) reports on Facebook.
Mrs Bulc says ‘I hear a lot of stories’ … ‘but there is rarely hard evidence’ about deteriorating working conditions in European aviation. There is ample evidence on her desk since early 2015 on the spread of ‘atypical’ air crew employment, zero-hour contracts (no flight = no pay), bogus self-employment, Pay-to-Fly schemes, fake crew Home Bases, fraudulent use of A1 Certificates, and the deliberate non-application of local law to air crew contracts. These are more than well-known to Mrs Bulc and her team.
The deteriorating air crew working conditions – and their potential harmful repercussions on crew health, working environment, and the safety of operations – are no anecdotes. They are thoroughly researched and documented by independent scientific studies, such as by Ghent University (2015); Eurocontrol/LSE (2016) or Karolinska Institutet (2018). Pretending that these studies and their findings do not exist or are not relevant is simply not an option.
In 2017 and early 2018, ECA provided hundreds of pages of hard evidence to the European Commission – ranging from exploitative contracts, pay slips and job advertisements, to concrete examples, numbers and testimonies. Tax and/or social security authorities in several EU countries are investigating abuses in this field. And social unrest is taking grip of part of European aviation. It takes a lot of effort to not see this. But to look away is, again, simply not an option.