International Labour Network of Solidarity and Struggles


Thursday, 13 August 2020

 
 

 

International air sector organizes and discusses action strategies in the midst of the global health crisis

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Aeronautical workers, activists and union leaders from various organizations that make up the International Union Network for Solidarity and Struggles held a video conference on April 21 to discuss the economic scenario and the health crisis in the context of the new coronavirus pandemic.

Emphasizing the aviation sector, the meeting served to discuss health protection strategies, as well as workers’ employment and wages. In addition, the effort and jointly sought to align a way out of the crisis that is able to guarantee respect for workers and meet the real needs of society.

Another point highlighted by the sector is the need to fight for public air transport at the service of the community that overturns privatization attempts and builds a system in which, according to the group’s deliberation, “recovery is done through public management airports, with a single airport services company, with airport taxes that return investments in the sector, with nationalized airlines and with the internal management of all activities, whether land or flight ”.

The International Network supports the sector’s international organization initiative in this moment of crisis and reinforces the call for the category to continue to be mobilized by rights, by life above profits, by the environment and by better services for the community.

Below is the full statement issued after the meeting:

INTERNATIONAL AIR SECTOR: FROM THE CRISIS, RESTORE PUBLIC AND SUSTAINABLE AIR TRANSPORT, AT THE SERVICE OF THE COMMUNITY

On April 21, workers, union activists and activists from different trade union organizations from various countries and cities (France, Italy, Portugal, Spain) met online to analyze together the general situation of the various States from the point of view of economic and health view, but also to discuss the specific situation of the air and airport sector with respect to the protection of health as well as the employment and wages of workers, in order to share together a way out that puts respect for work and the real needs of society.

State of emergency for workers, an opportunity for repression for governments and employers

In the various countries, each government has put in place a "state of emergency", a method that has made it possible to centralize decision-making power as much as possible but which, from the outset, has been functional in attacking workers and their democratic struggle organizations. In many states, mandatory quarantine (staying at home) has been sanctioned, but at the same time many workers of essential services, but also many factory workers, have been forced to go to work, often without the necessary personal protective equipment, this for respond to the requests of large entrepreneurs who absolutely did not want to give up their profits.

In this context, all forms of demonstrations were prohibited, but even worse in the various States the right to strike was suspended in some sectors, in Portugal the measure was determined so that it could be applied to all job categories. We therefore find ourselves in a situation where quarantine is mandatory for the population but not for the profit of employers who, with the help of governments and majority unions, continue to accumulate capital, putting the health of workers and their families at risk , without giving them the opportunity to go on strike. Several signs of unease and social crisis have also been highlighted, which could explode in the coming weeks: we are talking about workers suspended or laid off from work, precarious workers, self-employed workers who are forced into the house in very unstable economic conditions.

Billions for employers, misery for female and male workers

In the discussion, it immediately became clear how the various governments intervened immediately in this crisis, taking care, first of all, of securing the large capital accumulated by the companies and companies in the sector. An obvious example is undoubtedly the use of various tools by the governments to exempt bosses from paying wages whose names change in the various countries but the substance remains unchanged: in France chômage partiel, in Italy cassa integrazione, in Portugal Lay-off, in Spain Erte. These tools have always been used to finance companies in "difficulty" by removing the burden of paying social contributions and workers’ salaries, making taxpayers pay the "bill", putting the workers involved in a situation of employment difficulty ( layoffs) and wages (% less wages) even more marked in this Covid-19 emergency . Among the workers to pay the highest price, there are undoubtedly the precarious ones who, for years, have been creating wealth without any guarantee about their future employment and today, in full emergency, have been abandoned to themselves without any support nor the income from the various governments. The "theft" of workers’ holidays, by their companies, wich forces them to use it in this inoperative phase, was also highlighted: in addition to being an economic asset, holidays for workers are the tool to reconcile work with private life, even more important for women and mothers’ workers. Lastly, the use of some work modalities, clearly necessary in this phase pandemic containment such as “smart working” and the robotization of some processes concerning the boarding phases, check-in, drop-off , security checks, etc., recuring to the economic crisis as an excuse could be maintained and encouraged even after the health crisis, putting other jobs at risk.

We overcome the crisis by changing the system

Without any doubt, from the discussion it emerged that the goal is not to return to normal, this would mean starting from a situation of precariousness, exploitation and oppression generated by decades of market liberalization, privatizations and outsourcing of activities. All this can no longer be allowed, workers in the aviation - airport sector has been suffering from wages below inflation for years, increasingly unstable employment contracts, extreme hourly flexibility, reduction of health and safety protections, all this it emerged even more, with all its brutality, in this moment of crisis from Covid-19. The only way to get out of the crisis that has hit all air transport hard, must be by putting at the center of project the total reinterpretation of his system, based on an "overproduction of the skies" where it is profit that decides everything without consider the real needs of workers, society and the environment. We must struggle to impose a restart with a public management of airports, with a single airport service company, with airport taxes to be reinvested in the sector, with nationalized airline companies with the internal management of all ground and flight activities. It is necessary to start again with a public air transport that puts itself at the service of the community for non-profit purposes, with the aim of guaranteeing all jobs, also by decreasing working hours for the same wages, but above all that modulates its overproduction of flights ensuring, at the same time, fair ticket prices for all passengers, with a view to respecting the environment and the climate, in which air transport continues to be largely responsible for land pollution.

We end the document by expressing all our gratitude, support and solidarity to the workers health who, abandoned by the institutions, have been forced to work in inhuman conditions during these months of health emergency, often without the appropriate safety devices, cause of the death of hundreds of operators all over the world. We tell them that we will return to fight together as soon as possible, demanding justice!

CUB TRASPORTI – AIRCREWCOMMITTEE (ITALY)
CGT IBERIA (SPAIN)
SUD AÉRIEN– SOLIDAIRES (FRANCE)
SOS HANDLING (PORTUGAL)