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Air Transport World—Unions unite against Norwegian’s crew recruitment scheme

By Admin

[As published by Anne Paylor in Air Transport World]

Flight attendants and pilots from the US and Norway are joining forces in a bid to ensure that Norwegian Air International (NAI), the Irish-based long-haul subsidiary of Norwegian Air Shuttle, does not “bypass international labor laws” when it comes to recruiting crew.

The Air Line Pilots Association International (ALPA) and the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA) argue that NAI’s plans to outsource crew through a Singapore employment company at wages well below those of Norwegian’s Norway-based crew, contradict US-EU air services agreements, giving the company an unfair competitive advantage over European and US rivals. They maintain that NAI has applied for an air operator’s certificate (AOC) from Ireland, even though it will not operate flights to or from that country, in a bid to circumvent Norway’s labor laws.

ALPA president Lee Moak said: “Norwegian Air International has concocted a blatant plan to avoid Norway’s labor laws and contradict the US-EU air services agreement so that the company can gain an unfair advantage over airlines that do abide by their national laws and international agreements. If allowed to stand, NAI’s plan will unfairly threaten North American and European airlines’ ability to compete globally as well as the jobs of hundreds of thousands of airline employees. NAI’s attempt to cheat the system must be flatly rejected.”

The unions this week participated in a meeting of European and US labor leaders and government representatives from Norway in Oslo to discuss the issue.

In a statement, the AFA said: “History has shown that when companies find a way to take advantage of loopholes that assist in evading strong labor provisions, a global race to the bottom begins, leaving behind workers and communities. We are concerned that Norwegian’s announcement to hire US-based flight attendants to staff international flights undercuts labor laws, paying outsourced workers a fraction of what Norwegian flight attendants earn.”

In a show of solidarity, the Transportation Trades Department (TTD) of the AFL-CIO participated in the Oslo meeting and urged wider opposition against what it described NAI’s “flag of convenience airline.”

TTD president Edward Wytkind said the meeting took aim at NAI’s “plan to scour the globe for cheap labor and game aviation trade rules at the expense of middle-class jobs.”

He argued: “Norwegian’s long-haul operation is structured deliberately to avoid Norway’s high labor standards and high-road social laws that provide a measure of security for its people. If granted the authority it seeks from European and US government authorities, NAI will lower labor standards for airline employees.”

“The Norwegian scheme is bad for the global airline industry and will undermine good jobs in the US, Norway and the rest of Europe,” Wytkind concluded.

Norwegian was not immediately available for comment.