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New super-sized aviation services company urged to commit to respect workers


The aviation services company taking over Menzies Aviation has been urged by the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) to progress an agenda of constructive engagement with aviation unions.

A deal set to go through on 1 June will see the Kuwaiti firm, Agility Public Warehousing, take over Menzies Aviation and combine it with subsidiary National Air Services (NAS) to create one of the biggest aviation services companies in the world. The new company is expected to have 35,000 employees at more than 250 airports in 57 countries, turning around more than 600,000 aircraft a year.

Job losses have recently been an issue in the sector as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and unions are justifiably uneasy that the takeover will put further pressure on workers’ rights.

“We have written to Agility asking it to make a public statement reaffirming its commitment to free association and collective bargaining,” said Gabriel Mocho Rodriguez, the ITF’s Civil Aviation Section Secretary. “We’re pleased to note that the company has identified as key priorities respect for human rights across the supply chain, and health and safety. We welcome its participation in the UN Global Compact. We see this as an opportunity for Agility to establish itself as leading airport service provider that respects labour rights.”

Labour relations progress

ITF-affiliated trade unions have a sound record in representing Menzies’ workers in airports around the world. There has been good progress in labour relations in recent years. For example, in the last 12 months, constructive engagement with unions resolved disputes in the Dominican Republic and the UK and avoided industrial action. However, in some locations, such as the USA there are continued concerns around issues such as safety.

“Aviation services have survived through torrid times of late as a direct result of management and workers coming together with mutual respect,” said Mocho Rodriguez. “We want to build on our successes to strengthen the sector for the people who work within it.”

The takeover comes at a time when there are significant concerns about international employers in Menzies Aviation’s home market, the UK. The ITF and its affiliates were pivotal in raising public awareness when P&O Ferries (owned by UAE-based DP World) illegally fired its entire 800-strong workforce.

“We believe transport businesses are stronger and more sustainable if they respect workers and take the time to involve their representatives,” said Mocho Rodriguez. “The ITF and its affiliates are asking the newly merged company to start out on the right foot by making clear its commitment to worker rights.”

The ITF has written to Tarek Abdulaziz Sultan Al-Essa, the CEO of Agility Public Warehousing Company, asking for a meeting to discuss worker rights in the wake of the takeover. It says unions and management can come together to ensure there is respect for the rights of workers at Menzies Aviation, furthering the company’s commitments to the UN Global Compact.