Norwegian faces fresh union opposition to transatlantic flights

Norwegian faces fresh union opposition to transatlantic flights

Budget European carrier Norwegian faces international union opposition to plans to start new low-fare transatlantic flights from Gatwick.

A group of unions claims Norwegian Air International’s business plan is “crafted to circumvent worker protections” by evading international labour laws, creating unfair competition with EU and US carriers and threatening to “degrade labour standards” both in the US and in Europe.

The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA), which represents 60,000 US cabin staff, has been joined by the European Transport Workers’ Federation and the International Transport Workers’ Federation in calling on the US Department of Transportation to deny an application for a foreign air carrier permit submitted by the airline.

Norwegian already runs flights to the US from Norway and wants to start services from Gatwick to three US cities using a subsidiary set up in Ireland in February.

Unions in the US have already criticised Norwegian’s plan, saying the carrier is looking to operate these long-haul flights as an Irish airline in a bid to sidestep Norway’s more stringent employment laws.

AFA international president Veda Shook said: “AFA remains committed to a healthy and robust global aviation marketplace that provides career opportunities and good jobs for workers across the world. Competition and growth are essential to our industry but we must remain dedicated to promoting strong labor standards.

“Skirting international laws in order to gain unfair advantage cannot be tolerated. We call on [transport] secretary [Anthony] Foxx to deny NAI’s current application before such labour practices become the norm in international aviation, triggering a race to the bottom.”

ITF civil aviation secretary Gabriel Mocho Rodriguez added: “The practice of establishing subsidiaries and registering vessels under flags of convenience in order to avoid oversight and slash costs has long been a feature of the maritime industry. The results are well known: lower safety standards, sometimes shocking working conditions, little protection for workers.”

Norwegian chief executive Bjorn Kjos told Reuters in March that the unions which oppose his carrier’s plans were merely looking out for their own interests.

“They are just trying to stop competition because they hate to see that people are able to get low fares across the Atlantic,” he said. “The fares are way too high across the Atlantic.”

Kjos said he felt Norwegian was operating within the parameters of the open-skies agreement between the EU and US in setting up its long-haul operations.

Sourced from Travel Weekly

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