After the strategy, time for action?

Remember the European Commission Aviation strategy published in December 2015? The European Parliament just approved a number of “side-notes” to the list of hoped-for improvements, that the Commission had put forward in its Strategy. Notably, the Parliament touches upon some very critical issues, which – if done right – could solve many of the troubling employment practices in European aviation. Could this be a turning point and allow all these problematic issues change their status from ‘underrated’, ‘not well understood’ or ‘ignored’ to the status of ‘solved’?

The report itself is a solid and a thorough overview of the most pressing issues in the European aviation industry. It calls for a clarification of the Home Base criterion and a better definition of Principle Place of Business in order to ensure that they can be applied consistently and effectively to prevent use of Flags of Convenience and ‘rule-shopping’ practices. The report also highlights the Parliament’s concerns about zero-hours contracts, Pay-to-Fly (P2F) schemes, bogus self-employment and 3rd country crews on EU-registered aircraft. Along with that it calls on EASA and EU Member States to (continue) scrutinising those new “business models”. Attention is also given to the booming practice of abusing indirect employment in aviation to circumvent EU and national legislation on taxation a practice pilots have repeatedly criticised.  

As familiar as these issues sound, it turns out, not everyone agreed with the urgency and importance to take action. “Breathtaking ignorance” was used by an MEP to criticize the inclusion of the clarification of the Home Base criterion in the report. EU Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc also briefly commented that there is no evidence that P2F has a negative impact on safety. Those two examples come to illustrate the value of such reports: to inform and remind, to insist on concrete action and to leave no space for downplaying problematic items in aviation. There is no shortage of examples of decision-makers who understand what the problems are with e.g. P2F, atypical employment and Flags of Convenience. And luckily they are a majority in Europe!  With their vote of support in the European Parliament, after the Commission’s strategy, it’s time for action.