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ISSUE 48 page 3

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Pilots protest on flying hours as EU considers report
 IN OCTOBER THE EUROPEAN TRANSPORT WORKERS' FEDERATION (ETF) and the European Cockpit Association (ECA) held protests in Brussels against the failure of  the European Air Safety Agency (EASA) to act on scientific reports indicating that EU rules on flying hours should be tightened up to prevent pilot fatigue. Three years ago newly introduced flight time rules were criticised by pilots and, in response, the European Parliament commissioned the Moebus report. It was received a year ago and concluded that the harmonised flight time standards could cause fatigue, which is held responsible for 10-15% of all air accidents. UK union BALPA's General Secretary Jim McAuslan
commented 'Standard EU fatigue rules do make sense, with competition between airlines now so brutal safety must be beyond question and competition should be on the basis of the product, not by working pilots beyond what is safe'. Although British pilots are prevented by law from protesting at airports, some 2,000 pilots joined the demonstrations in 25 countries, giving out fake tickets with cigarette-style warnings about safety. UK pilots hope that the rules will be revised before the UK has to adopt them in 2012. The President of the ECA, Capt. Martin Chalk, warned that 'unless the EU acts now on information it already has ... the safety levels we currently enjoy would be damaged'.

A Hungarian pilot offers the fake ticket



Unions give short-time working a helping hand as EU governments fight unemployment

AS THE FINANCIAL CRISIS spread to the real economy unemployment began a relentless increase across Europe. However some countries have put ingenious programmes into place which aim not only to keep the figures down but also to aid and retrain individual workers to prevent them becoming another jobless statistic. Many of these schemes allow companies to  claim a subsidy from the state if they reduce the hours of employees instead of sacking them. The well-known 'Kurzarbeit' allowance in Germany allows firms to pay 60% of the lost wages and claim the money back from local employment agencies. Social security contributions can be reclaimed from the Federal Employment Agency, 100% if training is provided. A recent relaxation of the terms on which this allowance can be claimed, including lengthening the maximum period from six to eighteen months, has resulted in much greater uptake. Hundreds of thousands of workers were added to the roll in early 2009. The Confederation of German Trade Unions (DGB), although generally in favour of these measures, believes that further action must be taken to ward off the negative effects of the economic crisis
The Czech Republic is preparing its own scheme based on the German one. It envisages a four day working week with the government paying 20% of wages and workers taking courses on their free days. Both unions and employers are keen for the scheme to be implemented as soon as possible as unemployment is forecast to rise to 10% in the coming months. However the amendments to the law required mean that it is unlikely to start before mid-2010. France has long had a short-time work benefit scheme (chômage partiel) whereby 60% of gross pay for the lost hours was covered by the state but, under pressure from both unions and employers, the limit of 600 hours per worker per year has been steadily increased by the government to the figure of 1,000 applicable since September. If a company agrees to provide training the subsidy is 75% and the worker receives full pay during the actual training period. The employer also has to commit to retaining the worker for twice as long as the duration of the short-time work after it has finished.
In Italy trade unions have tried a regional approach. The Lazio region, which surrounds the capital, Rome, has experienced a rapid rise in unemployment in recent months.  The rate has now reached 10%, one of the highest on record, while the numbers receiving benefits from the public fund for laid off and short-time workers have risen by 163% over the last year. Even innovative, high-tech companies are affected with US multi-national Merck closing the Institute for Research in Molecular Biology based in the region. To ameliorate this crisis the three main union confederations, CISL, UIL and CGIL have signed a deal with the employers' association to reinforce the 'social shock absorbers' such as special unemployment benefits and income support; the regional government has also contributed €40 million to these. Other heads of agreement between the social partners include training, with special emphasis on employing apprentices, a health and safety 'observatory' to gather data and propose new measures, as well as a campaign to get the authorities to release funds for green enterprises, high-tech companies and building and infrastructure projects. Unions are keen for this agreement to be a model for other areas of the country. Raffaele Bonanni, the CISL general secretary, stated that 'the accord signed for Rome and Lazio is very important and now we should reach similar agreements between local administrations, unions and employers in all the other regions in order to relaunch the economy'.

Ships ‘dumped’ around Europe as owners go bust

VirtusTHE INTERNATIONAL TRANSPORT FEDERATION (ITF) has reported growing numbers of ships left in port by owners who run out of money and stop paying the crew or providing food and water. Although the global union federation expected a rise in the practice due to the financial crash and economic slump they say it is difficult to put an exact figure on abandonments as owners with severe financial problems may not admit that they have dumped a vessel. However there have been thirty cases notified this year so far. In addition the ITF is running a special project in Istanbul where there are thought to be fifteen ships arrested with abandoned crews. A recent example in Corunna, Spain saw the ‘Virtus’, Estonian-owned and registered in St.Vincent arrive on 11th June with engine trouble. A visit by aVirtusArticlen ITF inspector, Luz Baz, established that the 12-man Russian and Ukrainian crew were without food and about to run out of fuel and water. The owners had declared bankruptcy and the money they had sent had been confiscated by the local agent who they also owed. Federation officials contacted the charter company, the owner of the cargo and the St.Vincent government, none of whom were prepared to help. Local charities and the port are now supporting the mariners while they claim over $65,000 in unpaid wages. ITF Maritime Coordinator Steve Cotton insisted that ‘any shipping company … having ... financial problems which are likely to adversely effect crews, can come to us to discuss how we may be able to help’.

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