Machinists Union Participates in Global Aviation Forum


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As the world’s largest airline union, the IAM held a prominent role during the Aviation Forum at the recent International Labor Organization conference in Geneva, Switzerland.

The IAM took an active role in Feb. 20-22 International Labor Organization’s (ILO) Global Dialogue Forum (GDF) on the Effects of the Global Economic Crisis on the Civil Aviation Industry.

The ILO is the United Nation’s organization responsible for drafting and monitoring international labor standards. It is the only ‘tripartite’ United Nations agency that brings together representatives of governments, employers and workers to jointly shape workplace policies and programs. This unique arrangement gives the ILO the opportunity to incorporate ‘real world’ knowledge about employment and work.

More than 60 worker representatives from around the globe attended this year’s Forum held in Geneva, Switzerland, as well as representatives from 27 nations. IAM Transportation Department Chief of Staff Joseph Tiberi led the North American contingent of workers’ representatives; however, not a single North American passenger airline sent a representative to the Forum, underscoring the industry’s reluctance to engage in serious debate to address workers’ issues.

“It is disheartening, but not surprising, to see U.S. airlines ignore a United Nations appeal to discuss workers’ issues,” said Tiberi. “U.S. airlines once again refused to listen to their employees’ concerns and missed an opportunity to foster better employee relations. In spite of their reluctance to participate, the GDF was a success.”

Chaired by the Netherlands’ Ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, the objective of the Forum was to reach a common understanding of the difficulties the industry has undergone due to structural changes and the effects of the low-cost carrier model on the industry as a whole. The participants also focused on reaching consensus on a common approach that could contribute to a more sustainable industry.

The government and employer representatives agreed to the workers’ request for an ongoing global dialogue so there would be a forum to resolve issues impacting civil aviation employees worldwide.

“As the world’s largest airline union, it is important the Machinists Union takes a leadership role on the global stage,” said IAM General Vice President and Chair of the International Transport Workers Federation’s Civil Aviation Section Sito Pantoja . “Protections we take for granted in North America are non-existent in many parts of the world. By helping unions raise standards in other countries, we make it easier to fight for improvements domestically.”

The ILO prepared a comprehensive issue paper for the Forum titled Civil Aviation and its Changing World of Work. The complete document can be viewed here.