Byerly cites legitimacy in labour concerns over foreign ownership

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The lead negotiator for the US in developing the second phase of the country's Open Skies agreement with the EU believes concerns expressed by labour groups regarding foreign ownership are legitimate and need to be addressed.

An element of the first stage of the pact that began roughly one year ago was that if a second stage deal fails to materialize by 2010, traffic rights secured in phase one can be withdrawn by either side.

The EU has aggressively pushed for lifting of ownership restrictions of US airlines, but labour groups have continually raised opposition to foreign control of the country's carriers.

Deputy Assistant Secretary for Transportation Affairs at the US State Department John Byerly appears to be sympathetic to some of the concerns flagged by labour groups.

Citing the example of Air France and Delta merging or forming a holding company with co-ownership, he explains that creates two labour laws and two sets of unions among employee groups.

During a panel discussion today at the Phoenix Sky Harbor Aviation Symposium Byerly explained that creates the potential for management to leverage those groups against each other, and he believes there is a possibility of that scenario occurring.

"We need mechanisms to address those concerns," says Byerly, who stresses that those issues can be addressed "as long as we stay grounded in rational dialogue and not diatribe".

US officials have also posted questions to the EU regarding the level of confidence US investors can have in participating on ownership of EU countries. Byerly highlights that stipulations of the sale of the majority of CSA Czech Airlines include maintaining a hub in Prague and the carrier must remain a national airline.

"These are all tough questions that all have to be worked through before any US administration will propose changes to the law," Byerly warns.