There has been a dramatic increase in self-employment and zero-hours contracts in European flight crews, a study funded by the European Commission has found.
Many European airlines are now using contract workers, particularly those in the low-fare sector. According to a survey of around 6,000 participants, more than one in six of Europe’s pilots are employed through a temporary work agency, are self-employed or work on a zero-hour contract with no minimum pay guaranteed.
The survey results, which were gathered by the University of Ghent, Belgium, were presented at a conference in Paris yesterday (February 12).
“The study clearly shows that ‘casualised’ pilots are worrying about their working conditions and where to pay their taxes and social security. This puts crew under disproportionate strain,” said Emmanuel Jahan, chair of the European Sectoral Social Dialogue for Civil Aviation, which commissioned the study.
The European Commission has argued that self-employment is sometimes used to disguise what is actually regular employment, which creates an unfair competitive advantage for those airlines.
In December, the European Cockpit Association called on transport ministers to take action against what it labelled "unfair" labour practices, including zero-hour contracts and “bogus self-employment” – where pilots are contracted to work via their own limited liability company but prevented from working for other airlines.
The body, which represents 38,000 pilots, warned that allowing such practices to continue could result in a “race for the bottom” among European carriers.