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Young aviation workers organising for a post-Covid-19 future

04 Aug 2020
Over 100 participants from 21 different countries joined together online to identify common challenges, build their campaign skills and craft a collective vision for the future of aviation during the ITF’s Young Aviation Workers’ Summer School.

The ITF’s first virtual summer school took place over four days of Zoom sessions with young aviation workers in Africa, the Americas, Arab World and Europe (21 and 23 July) and in Asia-Pacific (27 and 29 July), who participated in a total of seven different languages.

“We are exploring new ways of engagement to ensure young workers’ voices remain at the forefront of shaping our priorities at the ITF,” said Baker Khundakji, ITF young transport workers officer.

“Aviation is one of the sectors most critically affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. Young workers are disproportionately impacted by this crisis and need a space to come together and strategise,” Ms Khundakji added.

A poll of participants revealed that over 75% had lost working hours or were made redundant during the crisis. Participants also confirmed the global disparities in the distribution of income support and wage top-ups by governments around the world.

“Aviation is going through one of the most critical periods in its history. It is clear that we need all of our solidarity and work from all of us together to overcome the crisis,” said Horacio Calculli, co-chair of the ITF young transport workers committee.

The interactive summer school experience included plenary discussions and breakout sessions, as well as skill-building workshops with leading campaigners in the aviation sector.

Rin Kaewpradap from the Solidarity Center in Thailand shared lessons from Wingspan Workers Union’s inspiring organising efforts with outsourced airport workers in Bangkok. Wingspan is assisting workers to fight forced resignations and has signed up hundreds of new members during the pandemic.

Shauna McCormack, ITF young aviation workers representative, highlighted a “guerilla campaign” led by members of Unite which is pushing back against British Airways’ attempt to exploit the crisis to make unnecessary changes to its workforce. The #BAbetrayal campaign has received widespread support from the public, celebrities and prominent politicians.

“Young transport workers are the future of aviation. This is our time to come together and build a future that works for all of us,” said Ms McCormack.

The key issues raised by participants and their resolutions for action were distilled into a statement from young aviation workers on Reconstructing our World of Work.