EU prepares guidelines on multinational airline employment practises

The European Commission is drawing up guidelines to try to prevent new employment practices having a harmful effect on highly mobile transport industry workers, and ultimately on the industry itself.

This includes cabin crew and pilots.

The European Commissioner for Transport Violeta Bulc talks about “a social agenda for transport”. She describes individual examples, explaining:

“For instance, should Andrzej, 40, a truck driver from Warsaw, sleep in his cabin when spending his weekly rest time abroad? Some Member States have decided to sanction such practices, but do they offer adequate alternatives? Should Andrzej be subject to different rules depending on whether he takes his weekly rest in Belgium or in Slovenia?”

She moves her focus to aviation:

“How can Nicolas, 20, living in Toulouse and dreaming to become a pilot afford to pay for his flight hours if he is subject to the so called pay-to-fly scheme?” That is a system for persuading copilots who need more flying hours in their log book to improve their employability, to pay an airline – or a crewing agency – for the privilege of flying as a copilot on commercial operations.

Or requiring, say, a Belgian pilot to be self-employed but to contract to fly exclusively for one carrier registered in Ireland but operating out of a base in Spain. In a case like that, whose jurisdiction dictates his contract, which protects his rights, where does he pay taxes?

Norway’s State Secretary for Transport and Communications Tom Cato Karlsen, speaking at an aviation safety conference in Oslo last year, said that Norway does not want to see “brutal” employment practices institutionalised within the EU airline industry and that businesses deserve a “level playing field” in Europe without being forced to join “a race to the bottom on employment practice”.

The Commission says that in the context of “rising global competition, new business and employment models” have emerged including “atypical forms of employment or pay-to-fly schemes”. It intends to “bring clarity to the legal framework for highly mobile workers through the issuance of interpretative guidelines”.

This sounds promising, but as usual with EU promises to deal with complex legal problems in a multi-national, globally-influenced environment, don’t hold your breath for solutions.


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