Airline ‘will not use cheap labour’ on Cork-Boston route

Norwegian Air International denies claims made by IALPA over foreign work contracts

Norwegian Air Shuttle’s group chief executive, Bjorn Kjos

From Barry Roche, May 31st 2016

Norwegian Air International has rejected claims by the Irish Airline Pilots Association (IALPA) that it plans to use cheap labour governed by foreign work contracts on its proposed Cork-Boston service which is currently being assessed for certification by the US department of transport.

According to Capt Evan Cullen of IALPA, Norwegian Air International plans to use contract crew on the proposed service whose terms of employment are based on contracts governed by labour laws in countries outside of Norway, the EU or the US.

Capt Cullen told The Irish Times that IALPA would welcome the new route with immediate effect if Norwegian Air International would guarantee that crew would be employed on terms governed by labour laws from Norway, the EU or the United States.


“There are two types of people who work on airplanes - there are crew who are directly employed and then there are agency staff and the main agency that Norwegian use are OSM who provide workers for both the maritime and aviation industries,” he said.

"The terms of employment and pay and conditions of contract staff are determined by where their contract has jurisdiction and a lot of contract staff are hired on contracts which are based in South East Asia where labour laws are a lot less stringent and they can pay people less."

He said: "We have written to Norwegian's Chief Executive, Bjørn Kjos and asked him to declare to the US department of transport that the employment contracts of these pilot and cabin crew of the proposed Cork-Boston route will be EU or US based employment contracts but Norwegian has refused to do so."

Capt Cullen's comments echo those of US unions whose concerns have been picked up by Democrat presidential contenders, Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, who have warned against giving Norwegian a certificate for the route as it would erode US pay and conditions.

Last week in the Dáil, Independent TD Clare Daly warned against granting Norwegian a certificate, alleging its parent company Norwegian Air Shuttle had specifically set up the Irish subsidiary to circumvent Norwegian labour laws to allow it source long haul crews from Asia on lower wages.

The airline rejected Capt Cullen’s claims when asked by The Irish Times, with the carrier describing IALPA’s opposition as based on “unfounded allegations” and said it was disappointing the union had “chosen to swim against the tide of industry”.

Asked about the use of OSM contract staff, it said OSM Aviation was now part of the Norwegian group and all 1,000 Norwegian crew members in Sweden, Finland, UK, Spain and the US employed by OSM Aviation are now direct employees of the Norwegian group.

The airline re-iterated that any new or existing staff on its services will be employed under the labour laws of the country where they are based, as currently happens.

“Thus for example, any US-based crew will be employed under US labour laws, crews from our UK base will be employed under UK law, etc, which is our current practice,” said the company, adding that it was a recognised EU airline headquartered in Dublin with 80 employees.

"Final approval for NAI's foreign carrier permit will allow long awaited routes from Cork to Boston to begin in 2016, followed by services from Cork to New York in 2017. NAI is also actively looking at further expansion in Ireland with new routes from other Irish airports," said the airline.

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times