This first appeared as a Comment in the 26 August issue of Flight International
Eurocontrol has just revealed that more than 13% of all the en-route delay in Europe’s skies during 2013 was caused by industrial action by air traffic control officers (ATCO) – mostly strikes by French ATCOs, which have more effect than they do in geographically peripheral countries such as Greece and Portugal.
French ATCOs strike every year, usually more than once. Spanish ATCOs also have a habit of withdrawing their labour regularly. This has led Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary to call for limitations on the right to strike by employees of national utilities, such as air navigation service providers (ANSP).
There is a case for this, but it requires debate. And since no government of post-revolutionary France would dare put a cap on trade union rights, the democratic debate must be led by the European Parliament. That is appropriate because it is all the people of Europe who suffer from ATC strikes, not just the French. Also, French ATCO strikes are at present largely directed at preventing the changes the Single European Sky will inevitably bring, and those changes were democratically voted for by the European Parliament.
Naturally, any group of employees that may not strike must have their rights guaranteed by other means.
Once these are ensured, employees of state-owned monopoly ANSPs should have their right to hold Europe’s economy to ransom every year removed.