Norway’s newest long-haul transatlantic airline, which plans to start flying in December, says it will take a different direction on labor relations.
Norse Atlantic Airways, the successor to controversial low-cost transatlantic carrier Norwegian Air Shuttle, has said it wants to negotiate a contract with flight attendants before starting to fly. This represents a break with Norwegian’s failed strategy of fighting its flight attendants. The carrier ultimately lost a contract vote and recognized the Association of Flight Attendants.
This time, AFA and Norse Atlantic say they have scheduled contract negotiations for the week of May 24.
While AFA President Sara Nelson is ready to negotiate with Norse Atlantic, the Air Line Pilots Association takes a more skeptical view.
“Norse will approach labor relations differently from the start,” Bjorn Tore Larsen, founder and CEO of Norse Atlantic, said in a press release jointly with the AFA last week.
“A low-cost operation doesn’t mean workers shouldn’t have good jobs in the company,” Larsen said. “We will directly employ Norse staff and respect the rights of our employees to bargain collectively. Norse respects the AFA as a strong advocate for the rights of flight attendants. “
In the same press release, Nelson said: “My first discussions with Mr. Larsen are encouraging. We believe Scandinavians can provide good flight attendant jobs that respect labor rights in the US and Europe, as provided for in the EU-US Open Skies Agreement. We look forward to meeting later this month to try to codify these discussions into a legally binding contract. “
On March 4, the day after the press release, ALPA President Joe DePete said, “We will vigorously oppose Norse’s attempt to gain Department of Transportation approval to operate in the United States. if his “brand new” airline is just another bait. change flag of convenience
“I am very skeptical of the latest business venture announced by Nordic leaders, who have spent years trying to play against the system, bypass tough safety rules and violate workers’ rights,” DePete said. . “ALPA remains firmly opposed to any effort that erodes fair labor standards and seeks to gain competitive advantage by sidestepping established international agreements.
In an email, Nelson said, “We don’t disagree.”
The AFA is “totally opposed to any startup that tries to outsmart the system,” said Nelson. “We strive to ensure compliance with the rules that keep competition fair. I am optimistic that we can do this for the Scandinavians.
“But there will be more and we have to solve this problem for the industry in the long term,” she said.
Norse Atlantic announced in March its intention to offer low cost transatlantic service from December, using Boeing 787 Dreamliners.
Two units of Norwegian Air Shuttle filed for bankruptcy in Norway in November, making NAS one of the most prominent victims of the pandemic.
But in April, the Norwegian founders announced a comeback. “Norwegian Air Shuttle founder Bjorn Kjos is nothing but determined, ”Reuters wrote. “Just four months after the transatlantic budget carrier he once ran collapsed into bankruptcy, Kjos is back to a new set of controls.”
Norwegian investors include Kjos, Bjorn Kise and Larsen. The carrier said the destinations would include New York, Los Angeles, Miami, London, Paris and Oslo.
In 2017, Norwegian flight attendants based in the United States voted to join the AFA. “Norwegian fought the right of flight attendants to organize and negotiate a contract for almost two years, but it’s stopping now,” Nelson said at the time. “We will not allow Norwegian to pit crews against each other.” Norwegian had argued that a recruiting company, founded by Larsen, employed its flight attendants.
In March 2020, the flight attendants ratified their first contract. But due to Covid 19, Norwegian’s long-haul operations were halted weeks later.
Ireland, flying the Irish flag, had challenged key labor rights provisions of the EU-US Open Skies Agreement, AFA joined with aviation unions in the US and Europe to fight the DOT approval of the license to operate under an Irish Air Operator Certificate in order to avoid labor laws and employment rights in the US and EU.
The AFA and ALPA are backing a House bill, regarding flags of convenience, which Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Oregon, is expected to introduce on Tuesday.