Joan Burton T.D.
Minister for Social Protection
Dear Ms. Burton:
This is to ask for information on whether the Government of Ireland is applying, or intends to apply, its social laws to the pilots and flight attendants who work on board the Irish-registered aircraft that are being used by Norwegian Air Shuttle (NAS) in the international air transportation services described below.
NAS is an airline that is incorporated in Norway and holds an air operators certificate (AOC) in that country. Through its subsidiary – Norwegian Long Haul, which also holds a Norwegian AOC – it operates a fleet of Boeing 787 aircraft. NAS already serves New York City and Fort Lauderdale in the United States with these aircraft and has announced plans to serve Los Angeles, Oakland and Orlando in the near future.
NAS has registered its 787 aircraft in Ireland. There are also news reports that NAS may seek to obtain an Ireland-issued AOC. We also understand that the airline is using pilots who will be based in Thailand and employed on individual employment contracts that are governed by the law of Singapore to crew the 787s. They will not be employed directly by NAS but by a recruitment company that will then contract (“rent”) them to NAS. We understand that a similar arrangement will apply to the flight attendants who will work on the 787s.
The NAS business model is unique and seems designed to undermine effective collective bargaining by the NAS pilots and flight attendants. Indeed, it appears that the express purpose of the model is to evade the application of Norway’ labor laws. For example, the airline has said that because its aircraft are registered in Ireland that it does not need to obtain Norwegian work permits for its Asian-based crew.
We understand that the union that represents the non-787 pilots is challenging NAS’s contention that Norway labor laws do not apply to 787 flight crew. We understand, however, that the Norway government has indicated that registration of the aircraft in Ireland will postpone the need for Norwegian work permits for the Asian-based pilots and that obtaining an Irish AOC would take those pilots completely out from under coverage by Norwegian social laws.
The Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD), is concerned about the operation of the NAS business model into the United States and about the fragmented nature of the labor laws that apply to the flight crews of EU airlines.
The possibility that EU airlines might make decisions on where to register their aircraft and/or to seek their AOCs based on a perception that one country’s laws might provide an advantage to the company in terms of labor relations has significant implications that, at a minimum, must be understood. Accordingly, we would like to know the extent to which Ireland will apply its social laws to the pilots and flight attendants who operate NAS’s Irish-registered 787s and, in particular, whether the Irish government will require NAS to obtain Irish work permits for those flight crew, and if so, whether NAS has applied for those permits.
We appreciate your consideration of this request. We also would be pleased to discuss our concerns about the NAS 787 operation in more detail if you believe that would be useful.