Norwegian Air Shuttle has cooked up just such a scheme, and the Obama Administration has a golden opportunity to send a message about U.S. resolve to defend good jobs and strategically critical industries such as aviation.
In a bid to expand its transatlantic operations and offer cut-rate fares, Norwegian Air Shuttle has created a subsidiary – Norwegian Air International (NAI) – which has obtained an air operators certificate in Ireland. Why Ireland? Because this allows NAI to bypass Norwegian labor laws and hire Thailand-based pilots whose individual employment contracts are governed by Singaporean law. In other words, NAI wants to scour the globe for the cheapest labor it can find and exploit.
So here’s where the Obama Administration comes in: NAI has applied to the U.S. Department of Transportation for a foreign air carrier permit. The company needs this permit to offer expanded service to American cities.
As the nation grapples with skyrocketing wage inequality and a shrinking middle class, the last thing we need to do is introduce new downward pressures on middle-class airline jobs. The Norwegian scheme takes direct aim at middle-class jobs on both sides of the Atlantic which is why we have formed a coalition with European aviation unions.
The administration has ample grounds to say no to NAI. The proposed operating arrangement violates the U.S.-EU Air Transport Agreement (ATA), which expanded aviation trade but expressly rejected any use of the expanded rights in this pact to “lower labor standards” or undermine collective bargaining rights. These employee protections were negotiated into the agreement to stop NAI-like airlines from gaining a foothold in the transatlantic market.
The Transportation Trades Department has supported aviation trade pacts that expand service and middle-class airline jobs. But the NAI scheme has no place in the ever-expanding aviation trade relationship between the U.S. and EU. If approved, it will set a standard that airlines can only compete for international routes by scouring the globe for the lowest labor standards.
The Obama Administration must reject the NAI application, and send a clear message that such business models will not be rewarded with expanded access to the U.S. aviation market. You can join the effort by signing ALPA’s petition asking the administration to defend U.S. airlines and airline jobs and #DenyNAI.