Irish pilots offered to withdraw opposition to Norwegian Air
Unions claim airline is registered in Ireland to allow it to hire cheap labour
Dublin Airport: Norwegian Air International employs 80 people at its base in the airport. Photograph: Alan Betson
Ireland’s leading pilots’ union has offered to withdraw its opposition to Norwegian Air International’s efforts to get permission to fly to the US if the company makes specific commitments on labour rights.
Irish-registered Norwegian has been seeking a foreign carrier’s permit from the US for two years, but opponents, including unions and rivals on both sides of the Atlantic, claim it is using the Republic as a flag of convenience to hire cheap labour through Asian companies.
The Scandinavian group wants to use its Irish subsidiary to run low-cost services between Europe, north America and Asia, including flights linking Cork and Shannon with Boston and denies the flag of convenience claim.
Irish Airline Pilots’ Association (IALPA) general secretary Capt Evan Cullen confirmed that following a meeting with the Norwegian Air International chief executive, Tore Jenssen, the union offered to withdraw its opposition if the company made public commitments on labour protection.
However, Capt Cullen said yesterday that after the offer was made in March, the union received no reply other than one confirming receipt of its letter.
The commitments sought were that flight and cabin crew be based in an EU member state, the US or Norway, that they be employed on contracts governed by the laws of one of those three jurisdictions, and that they have the right to choose a licensed trade union for collective bargaining.
The IALPA is affiliated with the European Cockpit Association and both organisations lodged their own formal objections to Norwegian’s application with the department of transportation, along with a range of US aviation and transport unions.
A Norwegian spokesman confirmed that the meeting took place and said that the company’s management committed “in person” to the Irish union that only EU and US crew would be used on transatlantic flights.
“This commitment has also been on written public record to the US department of transportation for over a year which is available to view by IALPA or any other party,” he said.
The unions insist that the issue is the contracts of employment used by the company, not the citizenship or origin of its crews. However, Norwegian has denied that it will use Asian companies to employ staff and said their contracts will be governed by the laws of the EU or US jurisdictions in which they are hired.
Norwegian employs 80 people at its base in Dublin Airport. Its parent, Norwegian Air Shuttle, established the subsidiary in the Republic so it could benefit from EU aviation treaties allowing it access to the US and other countries.