As in many other sectors falling under EU common policies, social dialogue in civil aviation has generated numerous texts which can be regarded as a joint means of lobbying the Community institutions. Around two thirds of the documents adopted are in fact joint opinions relating to European air transport policy.
This joint lobbying through the Sectoral Social Dialogue Committee seems to be proving effective: following three years of negotiations in a working group, 85% of the social partners’ joint demands were incorporated into the compromise reached on 28 January 2004 in the conciliation procedure on the creation of a “Single European Sky” (see Pochet, Dufresne, Degryse & Jadot: “European sectoral social dialogue 1997-2004”, ETUI-REHS, OSE, Brussels 2006).
Compared with other sectors such as the railways and electricity, however, the civil aviation social partners appear to be much more narrowly focused and slower to diversify the topics and types of document they adopt. The 2000 agreement on working time, implemented by a Council decision and negotiated “in the shadow of the law”, resembles “a life jacket for airlines having no collective agreements” (op. cit.).
Even though some working groups have made headway, social dialogue in this sector still seems to lack momentum. The renegotiation of the 2000 agreement which is currently underway seems not to have improved on the initial document, in the view of the trade unions, who have questioned the employers’ commitment to social dialogue (at the Committee meeting held on 4 June 2008). One of the main impediments to dialogue would seem to be the fragmentation of interests on the employers’ side, both among organisations and among airlines. Further international liberalisation of the sector and the proliferation of multi-base airlines will probably make an already difficult social dialogue even more complex.