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A job in EU aviation: too high risk

Will anyone want to work in the European aviation sector in the future? The answer to this question depends on who you ask. During the recent EU Aviation Day, organized by the Portuguese EU Presidency, the European Commission naively indicated that even after the crisis, aviation remains sufficiently attractive due to its intrinsic appeal. Well, this is really out of touch with reality. Ask anyone from the more than 200.000 people who have lost their job in European aviation due to the pandemic, or the thousands still uncertain if they will have a job tomorrow. Their answer will often sound similar: never again!

Why should they? Imagine you are young and currently have a dream to work as an airline pilot. Training costs can amount to more than € 100.000 and once on the job market you can only choose a job that entails extreme insecurity. No certainty about your defined home base, no certainty about the legality of your employment status – possibly finding yourself forced into a bogus self-employment set-up – no income in the event of illness, no income security because of a zero-hour contract and sometimes a quasi-ban on collective representation as an employee.

Not an attractive prospect but a ticket for social and financial misery...

As I pointed out at the EU Aviation Day – in my role as one of the panelists – many European airlines have nowadays abandoned their social responsibilities:
They are using fake, undeclared or even completely bogus self-employment setups;
They obstruct collective representation of employees;
They avoid paying social taxes for their staff;
They set up complex corporate and contracting structures, often across national borders, that blur the lines of accountability and responsibility, and make the national authorities' oversight a nightmare.

Not an attractive prospect but a ticket for social and financial misery

And it is those airlines that gain an unfair competitive edge over their competitors, outcompeting them in the market, and thereby putting social standards under pressure in all airlines. 

The sad truth is that it is the lack of legislation and concrete action from the side of the European Commission that allowed this atypical employment and social engineering disease to spread. This is why European pilots – and cabin crew – urgently need EU legislation to stop the devastating effects of bogus self-employment and other atypical forms of aircrew employment.

Without proper social legislation, the "race to the bottom" will only get worse, with the result that European aviation in the future will only become attractive to fortune seekers who have nothing to lose. For people who value job and financial security and who want legal certainty about their employment, tax and social security status, working in European aviation will simply come along with a too high risk.


by Capt. Otjan de Bruijn, ECA President