Your industry news - first Number 1 for Recruitment
We strongly recommend viewing Cleanzine full size in your web browser. Click our masthead above to visit our website version.
Airport staff in first-ever Global Day of Action to protest against 'poverty wages'
A new research report which claims that the global airline industry has created a race to the bottom which is putting airport workers, airport safety, and the quality of services for passengers under pressure, has inspired SEIU union members from all over the world to take part in the first-ever Global Day of Action at airports across the globe.
As corporate executives of the world's airlines gathered in Dublin yesterday for the International Air Transport Association's annual general meeting and World Air Transport Summit, airline passengers around the world were met by airport workers protesting against what they say are 'poverty wages', against the backdrop of a report projecting industry profits of $36 billion in 2016.
Workers drew attention to the fact that while the airline industry is making record profits, the airport service workers who make such profits possible are being underpaid, overworked, and overlooked.
Workers leafleted and talked to passenger, and held actions involving rallies, press conferences and banner drops in the airports.
"We are the backbone of the aviation industry and though our hard work is the basis of the airlines' success, too many of us live in poverty and can barely afford to put food on the table," said Mikeyda Samuda, a cabin cleaner for AerLingus and Jet Blue's subcontractor, Ultimate, at JFK airport in the US.
Ms. Samuda travelled to Dublin to join with airport workers from around the world to help deliver a message to airlines executives at an action outside the IATA annual general meeting.
"By standing together, we're making it clear to the powerful CEOs that airport workers worldwide are vigilant and we will hold them accountable no matter where they operate," she said.
Around the globe, actions were held at 30 major airports in countries including Ireland, Brazil, Argentina, Korea, England, Germany, the Netherlands, Australia, Sweden and the US. The efforts were spearheaded by a new global coalition called Airports United, which is determined to secure economic justice and higher standards for airport service workers no matter where they work. The June 1st actions were designed to send a clear message to the powerful corporate executives that with record profits, there's no excuse for airport workers anywhere in the world to live in poverty.
A new report by the London-based International Transport Workers' Federation - a global organisation of 700 trade unions in 147 countries, representing nearly 4.8 million transport workers including over 650,000 aviation workers - finds that workers in areas such as security, wheelchair assistance, fuelling, cargo and baggage handling, cabin cleaning and passenger check in, face a working environment marked by stress, irregular working patterns and wage levels that are often insufficient to meet their basic living costs.
Despite unprecedented profits, the aviation industry continues to drive down wages and working standards, putting workers under increasing pressure. As a result, airports have become a locus of low-wages, exploitation, unfairness and inequality instead of economic drivers and generators of good jobs.
Airport workers worldwide are also concerned that low wages, high turnover, inadequate training and safety standards not only put them in danger but also hurt passengers by impacting security and quality of service.
In the wake of the recent terrorist attacks in Brussels, US airport workers went on strike and called for more workforce investment and emergency preparedness training for all airport workers worldwide. The recent terrorist attack on Brussels' Zaventem airport and a 2013 shooting at LAX both show airport service workers-including baggage handlers, passenger service agents, wheelchair assistants, security officers and others-are the very first responders in emergencies.
The ITF report concludes that the decline in standards is easily preventable. Cost cutting is driving this race to the bottom, but airlines have the power to stop it and put in place a sustainable employment model, one that is capable of retaining a skilled and experienced workforce.
The airport workers' global day of action was supported by UNI Global Union, which represents 20 million workers from over 150 countries in the skills and services sectors.
2nd June 2016