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Ed Wytkind in The Hill: Norwegian Air deal undermines labor standards

By Ed Wytkind

Cue the stately intro music: Norwegian Air International (NAI) CEO Bjørn Kjos is taking tips on how the U.S. government functions from Netflix’s D.C. drama, House of Cards.

In a series of articles this fall in Dagens Næringsliv, Norway’s business newspaper, Kjos suggested that American opposition to NAI’s request for a foreign air carrier permit is all a symptom of what he clearly sees as a corrupt House of Cards-style American political system where “if you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.”

Apparently Kjos believes opposition to his company’s proposal is all the result of backdoor deals like the ones that take place in the fictional series about a South Carolina congressman. But in this case, truth is actually stranger than fiction since the NAI case could itself be a miniseries devoted to how to blatantly circumvent international aviation trade deals like the U.S.-EU Open Skies agreement, upend labor laws, and evade collective bargaining obligations. In fact, this miniseries would no doubt play as a classic dark comedy, since the setup itself reads like an elaborate joke: NAI plans to headquarter its operations in Ireland rather than Norway – despite having no plans to fly in or out of that country – and to hire Bangkok-based workers through a Singaporean hiring agency, all in order to circumvent Norwegian labor laws. NAI claims that the article of the U.S.-EU agreement that stipulates that the “opportunities created by the Agreement are not intended to undermine labour standards” simply doesn’t apply here. Cue up the laugh track. 

Read the rest on The Hill.

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