Thursday, June 21, 2012

Unions Meet Over Air Carrier Alliances Whilst Dutch Dockers Serve up a Protest

Eastbourne Tennis Tournament and Argentina are Contrasting Scenes for Workers Action
Shipping News Feature

ARGENTINA – UK – WORLDWIDE - Unions representing workers from the major airline alliances are meeting this week in Argentina to share information and develop strategic responses to developments by freight and passenger carriers in the industry. They will cover issues such as the implications of the proposed LAN-TAM merger on Oneworld Alliance workers and the situation at Turkish Airlines, which has raised serious concern among Star Alliance unions. Meanwhile, somewhat bizarrely, an Eastbourne tennis tournament will provide the backdrop to a protest by Dutch dock workers.

The Dutch dockers situation will be revealed at a press conference tomorrow, the 22nd June 2012, at 17:30 hours and will detail the protest planned for the following day at the AEGON International Tennis Tournament being held in Eastbourne and the main speaker will be Niek Stam of the FNV Bondgenoten trade union, and chair of the SBPVH advocacy foundation fighting for the return of pension money, totalling £715 million, which the protesters say has been taken from the intended beneficiaries.

He will be supported by members of the RMT and Unite trade unions, and Frank Leys, secretary of the dockers’ section of the ITF (International Transport Workers’ Federation). The tournament sponsor, insurance giant AEGON, is the target of a joint campaign by the employers and employees of the seaports community in the Netherlands. AEGON is headquartered in The Hague and took over sponsorship of the event from Stella Artois and also sponsors Dutch football giant Ajax.

During the Argentinian meeting, the One World of Labour Council (OWOLC), the coalition of unions formed last year to represent workers at Oneworld Alliance airlines, will also launch a new film and webpage. The new webpage and seven minute film ‘One World, One Voice: How global unions tackle aviation alliances’, are the latest campaigning tools in the Council’s ongoing mission to help those working for Oneworld to pool their experiences and ensure that their voices are heard in their own workplaces and beyond. Sito Pantoja, IAM transportation general vice president, who is chairing the meeting, commented:

“This annual gathering is important to ensure that those who work in alliance member airlines are as coordinated and informed as their employers. This cooperation goes beyond information sharing and seeks to enhance our practical solidarity capacity to support our members around the world. On that note, the Star Alliance unions will be watching the situation in Turkey closely. We hope that sense will prevail, that the dismissed workers will be reinstated, and that a constructive dialogue with the union on the new labour law will start immediately."

Unions have been increasingly concerned about falling standards for their members as more airlines choose to employ closer ties with former rivals in a bid to reduce costs. Often the companies employ staff who are members of different unions and sometimes there are no unions involved producing concerns that if the coalitions are seen as new operations the employers start their labour negotiations with a clean sheet or with the terms of the poorest served staff given primacy. Commenting on the initiative by the OWOLC, ITF civil aviation section secretary Gabriel Mocho added:

“One of our primary aims is to ensure that workers in this alliance are internationally informed and involved, and this meeting, and, in particular this new web presence and film, are a step forward in doing that. They are an open invitation to everyone working in Oneworld to find out more and participate. The Council's activities are also about democracy building and have, from the first, been accompanied by an offer of constructive partnership with management. ”