Flags of convenience

Fighting the impact of FOCs on working conditions

Liberalisation and deregulation in the aviation industry have led to airlines cutting corners to stay competitive and profitable. One practice that is creeping in as a way of making savings is the use of aviation flags of convenience (FOCs).

What are flags of convenience in aviation?

An airline owned in one country can ‘flag out’ by registering itself and its aircraft abroad. By doing this it can potentially take advantage of cheaper registration fees, low or no taxes and freedom to employ cheap labour – this is likely to deprive the workers of decent wages, proper working conditions and lack of legal protection.

To find out more, read ITF’s 2013 warning against aviation FOC.

Aviation workers as a commodity

Working conditions are also in decline due to the increase in ‘social dumping’. This is when employers look to other countries for personnel who they can employ more cheaply and often under inferior work conditions.

In this cut-throat market, in which aviation workers have become a commodity, internationally agreed standards are being breached.

Aviation FOC's the current scenario
The film demonstrates what is happening at present and is a call to organise and act now!

The ITF response to FOCs

The ITF raised the alarm on FOCs over 10 years ago. It’s not a new practice; the term is one used by international bodies, including the regulatory International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). We’re now focusing on influencing them with case studies and examples of the lessons learned from the maritime industry.

Our aims include:

  • Showing the true effect of FOCs on safety and security
  • Urging ICAO to work in co-operation with other United Nations agencies, particularly the ILO (International Labour Organization)
  • Developing the regulations necessary for a sustainable aviation industry in concert with those who work in it
  • Ensuring decent working conditions for all civil aviation workers

What can you do?

If FOCs haven’t affected you or your union, it may only be a matter of time before they do. It’s a race to the bottom — help us stop it!  

How you can help change the lives of aviation workers:

  • Make use of our Aviation FOC's Education Module.  (Also available in French, Japanese, Spanish, German, Portuguese, Russian, Arabic, Thai, Turkish and Chinese).
  • Campaign to improve working conditions in the civil aviation industry and make the international regulatory bodies take notice
  • Designate a contact person and lobby ICAO and your national ICAO representative/s
  • Increase the number of workers who are union members
  • Make union members aware of the issues and their impact on workers
  • Keep us informed of any issues or successes in your union – email aviation@itf.org.uk

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