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ITF defend the right to strike in global aviation 

news 20 Oct 2023

Today (20 October) is the International Day of the Air Traffic Controller. However, it is marred by the potential threat to take away these workers right to strike.  

Air Traffic Management (ATM) plays a significant role in the global aviation framework, and ITF recognises that ATM is as an essential service under the International Labour Organization (ILO).  

However, ITF believe that any discussion regarding potential infringement of essential workers' rights to strike should only be with representatives of the unions affected by the legal limitations. This is essential to safeguard a balanced approach to industrial relations.    

Stephen Cotton, General Secretary of the ITF, stated, "The right to strike is a fundamental workers’ right, and even in essential sectors, it should not be curtailed without robust dialogue. Staff in air traffic management deserve the same respect and consideration as any worker."  

In many countries, the limitations on the right to strike go to a point where industrial action is wholly prohibited, including in some ‘democratic’ countries.  

In response to the current developments in France, where there is a legislative proposal to add individual declarations of intent to take part in industrial action on top of existing minimum service arrangements, Paul Winstanley, Chair of ITF’s Air Traffic Services Committees, said: "Imposing restrictions on air traffic controllers without meaningful social dialogue undermines the very fabric of workers’ rights. Before any limitations, there must be a space for their voices to be genuinely heard."   

ITF calls for respect of the principles set out by the ILO regarding the right to strike in the ATM sector to be put in place to ensure service continuity when introduced should not prohibit the right to strike.   

Defending the right to strike will allow us to tackle the issue of having a diverse and inclusive workplace, and to be able to recruit and retain staff to operate the ATM sector safely.  

ITF has created a working group to on diversity recruitment and retention not only for Air Traffic Controllers but for all ATM staff. The continuous deterioration of working conditions in the whole industry for decades is a key source of the current problems. The development of the working conditions in line with societal change is essential for building a future where roles in Air Traffic Management are desirable for all.