Civil aviation unions plan fight against damaging impact of FOCs

Forty-one of the ITF’s civil aviation affiliates from 22 countries agreed on 26 July to develop a global union strategy with strong national and regional pillars to fight against the damaging impact of the growing use of flags of convenience (FOCs) in the aviation industry.

The previous day, they had participated in an industry-wide conference hosted by the ITF to stimulate discussion and provide a fuller picture of the current situation and future trends. Leaders from ITF- and ETF- affiliated unions addressed the conference, while the ITF’s general secretary Stephen Cotton and maritime co-ordinator Jackie Smith explained the challenges experienced by ITF maritime unions with FOCs.

Other speakers included Martin Chalk, president of IFALPA (International Federation of Air Line Pilots’ Associations); Catalin Radu, deputy director for aviation safety, ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization) Air Navigation Bureau; and Emmanuelle Jahan, vice-chair of the European Sectoral Social Dialogue Committee (representing the employers).

FOCs are a growing feature of the increasingly liberalised and deregulated aviation industry. The practice means an airline owned in one country can ‘flag out’ by registering itself and its aircraft abroad, to potentially take advantage of cheaper registration fees, low or no taxes and freedom to employ cheap labour. It is likely to deprive workers of decent wages, proper working conditions and legal protection.

ITF civil aviation secretary Gabriel Mocho said: “The ITF was virtually a lone voice when we warned of the use of FOCs over a decade ago. Now we and our affiliates can provide ample evidence of the harmful impact they are having on workers’ rights and conditions, safety and security.

”Unions have demonstrated this week that they are determined to stop this race to the bottom in the civil aviation industry. We will not cease our fight until the international regulatory bodies like the ICAO take notice and put a stop to FOCs.”