The EESC has set out a series of concrete steps necessary to achieve an Integrated EU Aviation Policy in its opinion adopted during the plenary session on 16 September. Of strategic importance for the European Union, the air transport industry in Europe directly generated an estimated 2.6 million jobs in 2012. In the same year, the money spent by tourists in Europe arriving at their destination by air is estimated to have added 4.7 million jobs to employment and approximately EUR 250 billion in GDP.
According to Jacek Krawczyk, rapporteur for the EESC opinion on an Integrated EU Aviation Policy, there is need for increased competitiveness in aviation in Europe. "In light of the fragmented airline landscape, the increasingly competitive non-EU hubs, the slow progress towards the implementation of a single European sky and the increasing risk of insufficient connectivity to smaller and peripheral regions, the Commission's strategy should be driven by how best to promote European competitiveness without distorting competition or undermining the social and labour relations", he underlined.
In order to remain competitive, the EU needs a coherent and comprehensive EU Aviation Strategy which removes the unnecessary burdens undermining the aviation value network, drives for a global consensus on sustainability and reflects the values of European citizens and businesses. The EESC's opinion has also identified six drivers of competitiveness - safety, connectivity, innovation, sustainability, operational excellence and global competition.
In another EESC opinion on Social Dumping in the European civil aviation sector also adopted during the plenary session on 16 September, the EESC raised concern over the increased use of false self-employed workers and temporary employment agencies to push down labour costs. According to the Opinion, the main drivers of social dumping are airlines with multiple bases, dis-embedding workers from their home countries. Airlines are facing fierce competition and their profit margins are lower than in other industries, which is why employers are looking for ways to cut costs to remain competitive. New business models are forcing down labour costs, while some Low Fares Airlines are driving a "slow descent to the lowest common denominator." The EESC warns that the fragmentation and outsourcing of core safety-related jobs, including air and maintenance crews, may have adverse effects on safety and that no risks should be taken if people's safety would be affected.
"The deterioration of working conditions is ubiquitous in the airlines industry in Europe. Airline companies should compete on the basis of innovative products, quality and price, not on use of legislative loopholes and low-cost jobs. The EESC supports a possible initiative by EU social partners in aviation to negotiate an agreement on the working conditions and social rights of employees in this industry. We are strongly opposed to social dumping and we will do anything in our power to fight it", said Anne Demelenne, rapporteur for the EESC opinion on Social Dumping in the European civil aviation sector.
According to the EESC, the EU's external aviation policy does not adequately protect the interests of EU airlines and their workers. While there are a number of requirements that EU airlines have to comply with in terms of ensuring fair competition, requirements for third-country airlines operating to/from EU airports are non-enforceable or non-existent. These airlines compete head-to-head on the same routes with EU carriers while benefiting from unfair advantages. The Social Dumping Opinion refers to reports of one Gulf carrier being publicly challenged for practices in breach of EU social legislation, such as dismissal for pregnancy and obligation to get permission to marry.
The opinion sets out clear recommendations to the Commission to fight social dumping, such as the proper enforcement of national social legislation and collective agreements, scrutiny of uncompetitive practices from non EU carriers, such as subsidies, state aids and promoting direct employment as the standard model in the sector by limiting the use of self-employed workers and temporary employment agencies.
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