Despite massive opposition both from the United States and Europe, the US Department of Transport (DOT) issued last Friday an order that would tentatively grant Norwegian Air International (NAI) a foreign air carrier permit, unless disapproved by the President of the United States. The international Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) and the European Transport Workers’ Federation (ETF), representing the interests of aviation workers Europe-wide and globally, strongly deplore this decision threatening thousands of jobs and call upon the US President Obama and Secretary of Transportation Foxx to reverse this order.

Over the past two years, the ITF/ETF and its affiliates worldwide have been campaigning against the permit that would allow NAI to operate between Europe and the United States under the current Air Transport Agreement. As a reminder, NAI has been set up as an Irish subsidiary of Norway-based airline Norwegian Air Shuttle with the aim to circumvent strict Norwegian legislation relating to labour standards and immigration. The company had intended to use Hong Kong-based flight crew and Thailand-based cabin crew hired through an employment agency on the routes between the EU and the United States, on lower salaries and worse working conditions opening up to unfair competition. Additionally, security concerns had been raised with regards to a lack of background checks of aircrew coming from third countries. ITF/ETF always welcome jobs in national legal conditions and promote national union agreements instead of flags of convenience.

Steve Cotton, ITF General Secretary added: “If endorsed by President Obama, this decision would further undermine labour standards and support the creation of flags of convenience in aviation. Therefore, we call upon the President of the United States to overrule the decision of his administration and deny the permit. This issue also raises a number of questions with regards to other trade agreements currently being under negotiations. We will do our utmost to stop NAI from promoting flags of convenience instead of national labour agreements.”

Eduardo Chagas, ETF General Secretary commented: “We regret that the US DOT gave up in its fight for fair competition and stated that article 17bis of the EU-US Air Transport Agreement that protects high labour standards cannot be decisional in this proceeding. We also regret the permanent pressure of the European Commission to the US DOT to grant approval to NAI. We call on the EU to legally address the flags of convenience model in aviation and the fair use of third-country workers on EU registered aircrafts.”

The ETF and the ITF are ready to mobilize their affiliates in Europe and worldwide to reverse the decision of the US authorities and ensure compliance with the labour provisions of the current EU-US Air Transport Agreement.

The ITF represents more than 650,000 civil aviation workers all over the world, including nearly 120,000 aircrew members in the United States of America.

The ETF represents more than 250,000 civil aviation workers all over Europe, including 90,000 aircrew members.