European carriers protest cheap foreign labour

European airlines and unions are taking a unified stance against plans by Norwegian Air International to hire cheaper Thai staff.

Norwegian long haul crew


KLM, Air France-KLM, Lufthansa and unions from France, The Netherlands and Germany have submitted a petition to the European Commission, requesting that regulators put an end to the move which they fear will jeopardise European jobs and social standards in the field of aviation.

Norwegian Air International is offering scheduled services from the UK to the US, operating under an Irish license, and plans to employ crewmembers from Thailand that are hired through a Singaporean agency.

Following industry opposition in the US, European institutions have also objected to the move in an open petition to president of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker.

“Competition in aviation is intense and it keeps us sharp. However, through business models like this we risk entering a downward spiral to the social bottom, risking thousands of qualified European jobs,” stated the petition.

“If we allow Norwegian Air International to start employing Thai crew on the EU-US routes, others will soon follow and jobs will be lost inside the European Union and created elsewhere.

“In the maritime sector we have already seen this same scenario play out, resulting in the loss of tens of thousands of jobs. It would be foolish to let the same happen to aviation.”

The European aviation stakeholders have requested that the European Commission follow the US example, where authorities have not yet approved Norwegian Air International’s foreign carrier permit.

The low cost carrier has not yet received full approval from US Department of Transportation (DoT), but it is operating to US cities nonetheless.

Meanwhile, the European carrier is proving popular with passengers, reporting strong results through November 2014.  Norwegian reported traffic growth of 21% last month, carrying more than 1.7 million passengers and achieving a load factor of 79%.

Norwegian CEO, Bjorn Kjos, says this is evidence that it is not labour standards that the industry objects to, but rather the low fares which are proving competitive.

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