Flags of INconvenience: Europe must stop social dumping and flags of convenience in aviation

“Flags of convenience”, the scheme used in the maritime sector to seek laxer regulatory, taxation and labour regimes, is threatening the European aviation industry.A joint declaration signed by the group directly representing both employers and workers in the industry warns against the rise of this new development: airlines using “Flags of Convenience” (FoC) undercut fair competition in the sector, avoid many regulations and scorn the globe to exploit labour without European social rights and standards.

At a press conference on Friday, 11 July 2014 in Brussels, the EU Social Dialogue Committee for Civil Aviation presented a joint declaration warning that Flags of Convenience will lead European aviation to the fate of the decimated European maritime industry with almost no European crew left. A precedent now risks being set as one non-EU airline uses an Irish registration, despite having no Irish base, to fly within Europe and to the US, with Thailand based crews on a variety of Far Eastern contracts.

“The inconvenient truth is that such companies are not creating new ‘business models’ in the market. Rather, they are exploiting regulatory loopholes and insufficiently coordinated legislation behind a distraction of publicity over a few cheap flights”, said Jon Horne, Vice-Chair of the Social Dialogue Committee. “They blatantly undermine the international rules and agreements designed to ensure fair competition and employment standards. If FoCs, what is in fact an ‘exploitation model,’ are not stopped now it will force currently responsible airlines into a race to the bottom and aviation jobs exit Europe for good.” “An airline using infrastructure, healthcare and education in Europe whilst not contributing to European social systems commits social dumping, and is parasitic on the responsible European citizens and businesses who effectively subsidise them,” said François Ballestero, Political Secretary for Civil Aviation at the European Transport Workers’ Federation (ETF).

“It is vital for our industry to remain competitive. But competition can only work if it is on a level playing field, with clear and simple rules applied to all,” said Emmanuel Jahan, Chair of the Social Dialogue Committee. “The European Commission has the power to decisively stop abuse and mockery of European legislation; we hope steps will be taken to guarantee the competitiveness of the European industry and the preservation of European jobs.”