On April 15, the Department of Transportation (DOT) tentatively approved a Norwegian Airline’s request for a foreign air carrier permit to allow it to operate flights to the United States. Here’s the catch: That airline, Norwegian Air International (NAI), is registered in Ireland and will employ flight crews under Singaporean or Thai employment contracts and evade the employment and tax laws of Norway where its parent company is based.
This globetrotting business plan is a clear violation of the 2010 U.S.-EU Open Skies Agreement, which has a specific provision – Article 17 bis – that states that the “opportunities created by the Agreement are not intended to undermine labor standards or the labor-related rights and principles contained in the Parties’ respective laws.” Clearly, NAI’s plan to scour the globe for cheap labor is a blatant violation of the labor provisions in the agreement.
Make no mistake about it: NAI’s plans have always been about gaming trade rules, gaining an unfair competitive advantage and beating down workers’ rights, wages and benefits.
Together with the Air Line Pilots Association, the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, and the Transport Workers Union, TTD is calling on the Obama Administration to reverse this decision. But we need your help. Tell the DOT to #DenyNAI.
Watch the video:
Why Obama Must Reject Norwegian Air
By Lori Garver, General Manager of ALPA, International and a former Deputy Administrator of NASA
As published in The Hill
For consumers, the option of choice is one we have come to expect. Factors that sway our decisions could be quality, price, location, convenience — you name it. America has embraced a competitive marketplace that spurs choice and innovation, and the airline industry is no different.
However, along with the advantages of healthy competition come the opportunists — those fueled by competition but seeking to cheat the system to gain the upper hand. One of these opportunists that stands to undermine the U.S.’s $1.5-trillion commercial aviation industry is Norwegian Air International (NAI).
It’s a simple story — albeit filled with complex details — about a foreign company that seeks to share in the lucrative U.S. airline marketplace yet with a dishonest advantage. And unless you’re truly paying attention, reading the fine print, and are familiar with the rules of engagement regarding the U.S.–EU Air Transport Agreement, Norwegian Air probably seems like a fine option for consumers. Just another choice.
So, let’s tell it like it is.
NAI, a subsidiary of Norwegian Air Shuttle, is incorporated in Ireland because of the country’s favorable tax and regulatory laws. (NAI is not the only company that has figured this out; you might have heard about Facebook’s recent IRS challenges after moving some of its assets to Ireland due to the lower corporate tax rate.)
However, NAI goes several steps farther with this “opportunity.” The airline intends to use flight crews hired under a Singapore employment contract. NAI still says it plans to use U.S. and EU crews, but if that is indeed true, why bother using a Singapore employment contract? It seems obvious: because it gives the airline a way to get around negotiated labor and compensation standards.
Read more in The Hill
Setting The Record Straight On Norwegian Air And The US-EU Open Skies Agreement
By John Porcari, former Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation, 2009-2013
As published in The Huffington Post
Expanding global connectivity through aviation only succeeds when the playing field is level and the rules are both universally understood and scrupulously enforced. That was the core principle behind our government’s negotiation of an amended air services agreement with the European Union (EU), known as the U.S.-EU Air Transport Agreement (ATA). I know this because I was in those discussions while serving as Deputy Secretary of the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT).
Today, some basic facts about this agreement and the applicability of its provisions have been twisted beyond recognition in the pending case involving Norwegian Air International (NAI), an Irish subsidiary of Norwegian Air, which seeks USDOT approval of a foreign air carrier permit application to fly to the United States. Let’s set the record straight.
NAI is requesting to launch a complex international airline operation that at its core challenges explicit provisions of the agreement, in particular those specifically designed to protect high labor standards for cabin crews on both sides of the Atlantic. Norwegian Air’s plan is to have their Irish subsidiary hire crews under Singaporean or Thai law that allows them to fly without having to comply with the employment and tax laws of its Norwegian home country. If approved, this highly unusual application guts the core of the ATA’s labor provision, which is the logical forum for such disputes.
Read more in The Huffington Post
Boeing’s Shameful Attacks on its South Carolina Employees’ Rights Will Not Go Unchallenged
Washington, DC – Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, and Edward Wytkind, president of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO, issue this statement in response to Boeing’s latest tactics aimed at squashing attempts by its employees in South Carolina to select the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace workers as their collective bargaining representative.
“Boeing’s sinister claims that the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) is somehow jeopardizing aerospace jobs as it opposes a job-killing flag-of-convenience airline is both factually inaccurate and a cynical attempt by the company to deny its employees in South Carolina the benefits of collective bargaining.
“The IAM and the entire labor movement is opposing Norwegian Air International’s (NAI) entry into the U.S. market because the airline’s application for a permit before the U.S. Department of Transportation violates our air services trade agreement with the European Union (EU). By headquartering NAI in Ireland instead of Norway, the company is attempting to avoid strong labor laws and current collective bargaining obligations in its home country. NAI’s operating plan centers on hiring Asian flight crews under Singaporean or Thai employment contracts. The fact that this scheme will undermine labor standards and collective bargaining rights in violation of Article 17 bis of the U.S.-EU Air Transport Agreement is the basis for our opposition to the company’s application.
“If NAI’s application is approved, the carrier will gain an unfair competitive advantage over airlines that play by the rules – most of which are significant and longstanding Boeing customers. NAI’s parent company, Norwegian Air Shuttle, already flies to the U.S., using Boeing aircraft, and can continue to do so and expand flights under its existing operating authority. NAI’s application has absolutely nothing to do with buying more Boeing airplanes but has everything to do with setting up a corporate shell to eviscerate labor standards, undercut fair competition and destroy middle-class U.S. airline jobs.
“Boeing’s attack on the IAM is especially outrageous given that the union has led the way in advocating for policies that have expanded Boeing’s reach into new markets and created jobs. The Export-Import Bank, which Boeing has said is vital and essential to its future, would be shuttered if not for the efforts of the IAM and the broader labor movement.
“Finally, the NAI battle has been going on for well over two years. If this application was so important to Boeing, why did it wait until now to take a public position? Clearly these public relations tactics are about dissuading South Carolina workers from joining the IAM and demanding better wages, benefits, job protections and working conditions. These shameful tactics should be dismissed as more anti-union saber-rattling by this corporate giant.”
By Richard Trumka and Edward Wytkind
As published in Politico
America’s working people are rightly suspicious of trade policy. For too long our trade strategy has protected corporate interests while fueling a race to the bottom in living standards for working families. That sad legacy is now rearing its head in the aviation sector. As you read this, a Norwegian airline is seeking our government’s blessing to launch new trans-Atlantic service into the U.S. that violates our trade rules. Norwegian Air International is just the latest symbol of failed American trade policy and toothless enforcement of trade agreements.
Norwegian Air Shuttle, the parent airline attempting to launch NAI, likes to pride itself on being a low-cost European airline, but the launch of NAI isn’t an attempt to enter the U.S. market. In fact, Norwegian Air Shuttle already flies into the United States. Instead, the operating model it plans for its Norwegian Air subsidiary takes a page from the unfair trade playbook. NAI will use temporary labor by employing Bangkok-based flight crews under short-term Singaporean or Thai employment contracts. This move will allow Norwegian Air to boost profits by beating down workers’ wages and benefits and gaming trade rules.
Norwegian Air Shuttle already serves U.S. cities such as Las Vegas and Orlando and does not need additional authority from the Department of Transportation to expand its flights to American destinations. The company has collective-bargaining relationships with its employees in Norway, but its expansion plans using the NAI subsidiary would sidestep its workforce in Norway in favor of low-cost Asian crews. It is a timeless strategy to bolster its profits: cut costs by circumventing labor standards.
Read more in Politico.
By Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ) and Sara Nelson
As published in the Newark Star-Ledger
Tens of thousands of travelers take off from Newark Liberty International Airport on their way across the Atlantic Ocean every day.
Those traveling on U.S.-flagged carriers are assured the aircrews onboard hold the highest standards in training to safely ferry them and their loved ones halfway around the world. As anyone who has flown on a U.S. commercial airliner can attest, our flight crews are well-trained under the most rigorous aviation standards and serve a valuable safety function to travelers.
That reassuring daily ritual is currently in real danger of being supplanted by aircraft crewed by foreign nationals working for lower wages dictated by the labor laws of whichever country their corporate bosses find most convenient.
When the aviation industry is receiving record approval from consumers and aggressively investing in a safer, more-positive in-flight experience, this new business approach threatens a race to the bottom if allowed to get off the ground.
The Obama administration is poised to approve a permit that would allow a subsidiary of Norwegian Air International (NAI) — chartered in Ireland to avoid Norway’s tax and labor laws — fly into the United States on aircraft whose crew’s pay and working conditions are dictated by their home Singaporean or Thai law. The sole intention of this arrangement is to skirt U.S. and European labor laws and create unsustainably low-cost competition to current airlines that follow the letter and spirit of international trade rules.
Read more in the Newark Star-Ledger.
As published in the Newark Star-Ledger
A request by a new international airline to fly to the U.S. pits the Obama administration against organized labor and its Republican ally: U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo of New Jersey
The chairman of the House aviation subcommittee, LoBiondo and others introduced legislation to prevent Norwegian Air International from flying to the U.S. The lawmakers contend that the airline’s business model violates labor protections embedded in the U.S.-European Union agreement that ended most barriers to trans-Atlantic flights.
“It’s an airline set up to put American jobs at risk,” said LoBiondo (R-2nd Dist.).
The new airline is a subsidiary of Norwegian Air Shuttle, a European-based low-cost carrier that last year flew 26 million passengers to 132 destinations, including Kennedy Airport. It would compete with international flights out of Newark Airport.
The bill would prevent the U.S. Transportation Department from approving Norwegian Air International’s certification. The agency has given a tentative OK with a final decision expected later this month.
“This is the future of the airline industry on the table,” said Edward Wytkind, president of the AFL-CIO’s transportation trades department.
Read more in the Newark Star-Ledger.
Hillary for America Labor Campaign Director Nikki Budzinski released the following statement today, urging the Obama Administration against moving forward with final approval of Norwegian Air International’s entry into the U.S. airline market. Norwegian Air International has been criticized for unfair labor practices that threaten American jobs:
“Workers in the U.S. airline industry deserve rules of the road that support a strong workforce with high labor standards — not attempts by airlines to flout labor standards and outsource good-paying jobs. That’s why our Open Skies Agreement with Europe explicitly calls for the maintenance of high labor standards to guide the parties in its implementation. Hillary Clinton urges the Obama Administration against moving forward with final approval of Norwegian Air International’s application. Too many questions have been raised about NAI’s practices and plans.”
“Put simply, NAI is circumventing its home country’s labor laws in order to hire its crews using cheaper foreign contracts,” wrote Rep. Levin. “On this issue and other international economic issues like it, it is incumbent upon the U.S. government to fully use the tools it has available to support U.S. workers and U.S. competitiveness… I strongly urge DOT to reverse its tentative decision to grant Norwegian Air a foreign air carrier permit.”
Read Levin’s full letter here.
by Capt. Tim Canoll, president, ALPA
As published in Aviation Daily
A thunderous roar of opposition emerged from U.S. aviation workers and the public in the wake of the Transportation Department’s (DOT) announcement April 15 of its tentative decision to approve Norwegian Air International’s (NAI) permit application to fly to and from the U.S.
Airline employees, passengers, and cargo shippers in the tens of thousands have raised their voices in united opposition because NAI’s business plan, which is designed to undermine labor standards and the intent of one of this country’s international trade agreements, would erode fair competition, run contrary to U.S. trade policy, and threaten U.S. aviation workers’ jobs.
Norwegian Air Shuttle (Norwegian), NAI’s parent company, already operates flights to and from the U.S., and currently has the regulatory authority to operate more routes, such as Boston–Cork, should it choose to do so. Its recent attempts to link its NAI application to its Boston–Cork service are nothing more than an effort to hold these new flights hostage and mislead the public, to force the U.S. government’s hand in approving NAI.
When Norwegian created NAI as an Irish subsidiary, it was embarking on a flag-of-convenience scheme expressly designed to avoid Norway’s labor, tax and regulatory laws. While flagged in Ireland, NAI plans to use flight crews hired on Asian employment contracts in a flag-of-convenience model that is completely at odds with the U.S.–EU Air Transport Agreement (ATA). The ATA includes a labor provision, known as Article 17 bis, that requires the DOT to ensure that opportunities under the agreement are not used to undermine labor standards.
Read more in Aviation Daily.
Click here to read the letter.
By Reps. Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ), and Rick Larsen (D-WA)
As published in The Hill
The planes are painted in the national colors of Norway, their tails decorated with pictures of famous Norwegians. Emblazoned on the fuselage in bold print is the airline’s name, Norwegian. You buy your tickets at Norwegian’s website to fly on the airline from New York or Los Angeles to Oslo.
But that’s where the “Norwegian” part of this airline’s business model ends. Norwegian Air International (NAI) is headquartered in Ireland, employs crews under short-term contracts governed by Singapore law, and bases many crewmembers in Bangkok to avoid Norway’s fair and strong labor standards. It is “Norwegian” in name only. The airline is set up to operate services under our expansive air transport agreement with Norway and the European Union on anti-labor terms that put American jobs at risk.
Despite NAI’s overt use of a flag of convenience, the U.S. Department of Transportation gave this arrangement a stamp of approval on April 15, tentatively deciding to issue NAI a foreign air carrier permit for permanent service to the United States. Not only is the Department’s decision shortsighted, it ignores the clear language of our air transport agreement stating that U.S.-Europe air services “are not intended to undermine labour standards or the labour-related rights and principles contained in the Parties’ respective laws.” In signing this agreement, the United States agreed not to be complicit in any attempt by a European airline to circumvent its home country’s labor laws by hiring crews under cheaper, foreign contracts. But in allowing NAI to serve the United States using this business model, that is exactly what the Department of Transportation has done.
Read more in The Hill.
Click here to read the letter.
The Honorable Anthony Foxx
U.S. Department of Transportation
1200 New Jersey Avenue S.E.
Washington, D.C. 20590
Dear Secretary Foxx:
We respectfully urge the Department of Transportation (DOT) to set aside its tentative decision of April 15, 2016, concluding that Norwegian Air International is qualified to receive a foreign air carrier permit, and to deny Norwegian Air’s permit application. Norwegian Air is “Norwegian” in name only and relies on flags of convenience to subvert the fair labor standards of its home market. The DOT must not be complicit in such conduct.
Article 17 bis of the United States-European Union-Norway-Iceland Air Transport Agreement states that “[t]he opportunities created by the Agreement are not intended to undermine labour standards or the labour-related rights and principles contained in the Parties’ respective laws” and further requires that these “principles . . . shall guide the Parties as they implement the Agreement.” Unfortunately, it is our understanding that the Department has decided provisions in the U.S.–E.U. Agreement that address labor are not, on their own, a sufficient basis for rejecting an otherwise-qualified applicant.
Regardless of whether article 17 bis is an independent basis for denying a permit application, the grant of a permit to a Norwegian airline that holds an Irish air operator’s certificate and employs contract crews that are based in Thailand is clearly inconsistent with Norwegian and U.S. labor standards. No amount of legal gymnastics can get around the fact that Norwegian Air’s permit would be a permit to subvert fair labor standards.
Norwegian Air’s overt practice of labor forum-shopping gives it an unfair competitive advantage in the transatlantic market. U.S. and other European carriers rightly adhere to the high labor standards that we and our European allies have created through decades of hard work and commitment to a sustainable and socially-responsible aviation system. The point of Open Skies is to create an environment that fosters competition, not flags of convenience.
This matter remains an opportunity for the U.S. Government to stop this race to the bottom and to protect open markets and fair play. We urge the Department, in the strongest possible terms, to set aside the flawed tentative decision on Norwegian’s permit application and to deny the application. The public interest demands it.
PETER DeFAZIO FRANK A. LoBIONDO
Member of Congress Member of Congress
Member of Congress
by Sara Nelson, president, AFA-CWA
As published in The Hill
Aviation is about people: We move lives. In the midst of a national discussion about trade benefiting multinational corporations rather than the people who move America with good jobs, the Obama administration issued a shocking ruling that could put every U.S. aviation employee at risk.
On April 15, 2016, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) tentatively approved a foreign air carrier permit for an Irish-flag subsidiary of Norwegian Air International (NAI). NAI is seeking to establish a “flag of convenience” carrier certified in Ireland in order to hire flight crew from Asia and avoid Norway’s labor laws – a flagrant violation of Article 17 bis of the U.S.-EU Open Skies agreement.
Article 17 bis conveys the intent of the agreement to foster healthy competition while respecting the labor laws of each carrier’s home country by acknowledging the benefits that occur when “open markets are accompanied by high labor standards.”
The U.S.-EU Open Skies agreement was heralded for its labor protections of Article 17 bis—it’s the only open skies agreement with such provisions. It specifically states that “opportunities created by the Agreement are not intended to undermine labor standards or the labor-related rights and principles contained in the Parties’ respective laws.”
Read more in The Hill.