Stressed and Fatigued on the Ground and in the Sky: Changes from 2000 – 2007 in civil aviation workers’ conditions of work

“This study highlights the changes in Civil Aviation workers’ conditions between 2000 and 2007 and is being published just as the Civil Aviation Section of the ITF turns 60 years old.

The first Conference of the Section was held in October 1949 when the jet-propelled civil aircraft was still a few years away from being commercially exploited, and air travel for ordinary people was a prospect only a few visionaries could see. The ITF was just re-starting its activities in earnest following the end of the Second World War, and existing aviation affiliates were already demonstrating their long-term perspective by pressing the ITF to take a “close look not only at working conditions but at safety” in the aviation industry.

Workers today would not recognise the world of civil aviation in existence then. Over the course of the following 60 years, scientific and technological progress made civil air transport a crucial part of the transport mix. Technological progress brought positive changes but also many challenges for aviation employees, and had a profound impact on their working conditions.

The real problem however came with deregulation, starting at the end of the 1970s and eventually leading to the disappearance of thousands of high quality jobs along with most of the ‘legacy airlines’ that provided them. Neo-liberal dogma dictated that the best course for the industry was to privatise and to outsource as many of its operations as possible. Time would unfortunately prove this strategy to be ineffective and potentially dangerous – an ICAO study from 2005 found that too much liberalisation has led to the loss of control over safety.

Unfortunately there has been no let up in the liberalisation and deregulation agenda in the intervening decades. International competition, mergers, alliances, and cost-efficiency strategies are still being pursued relentlessly, increasing the already intense pressure in an industry that is not only characterised by cut-throat competition but which is also painfully exposed to external factors such as security concerns and economic crises. All this of course has had a direct impact on jobs and the working conditions of those employed in the industry.

In this scenario, low-cost carriers push yet further the boundaries of what their workers, and even what passengers will put up with. And they don’t stop there. Local airports and service providers are also forced to lower their charges and to provide ‘flexible’ and cheap labour or face the threat of abandonment by such carriers.

These companies use their workers to the limit in their quest to lower running costs and to advertise the lowest fare. Sadly, many passengers are still taken in by the creative fare structures that obscure the true cost of many flights. And the drive to infinitely lower fares continues, despite concerns about its implications for both passenger and crew safety raised by trade unions.

In the period covered by this study, statistics show that global air passenger traffic, air freight volume and revenues have gone up. However, while the industry has grown, civil aviation workers have faced a steady decline in their conditions in all regions. This groundbreaking study on fatigue by the ITF’s Civil Aviation Section examines the reasons for this in the context of the changes within the industry. One thing is very clear – this is an extremely serious problem for our workers, and we have to fight back.

Stressed and Fatigued on the Ground and in the SkyThis study, while valuable in itself, has a broader importance. The findings will help us to develop an international campaign that addresses the common concern of stress and fatigue but in a way that focuses effectively on the specific needs of each of the three very different groups of civil aviation industry workers: air traffic services and ground staff (whose work involves shift work), and crew members (whose work involves frequent changing of time zones).

Many unions are already involved in national activities to address this problem. An ITF campaign would aim to support those activities and encourage action in countries that aren’t currently involved in such initiatives. An international campaign would also serve to focus international attention. National campaigns would benefit from the effects of major worldwide coordinated actions. Other solutions, such as international minimum standards, will require pressure at the relevant international level.

A global campaign will illustrate the fact that this problem is not confined to one country or group of countries. It is experienced in all countries in all parts of the world.

Gabriel Mocho Rodriguez ITF Civil Aviation Section Secretary”

Click here for the whole article.

Comments are closed.

© 2022 Unhealthy Work  |  For more information regarding this site, please contact us