MEPs oppose liberalisation of ground services at airports

Published on Thursday, 08 November 2012 10:38
Posted by Vicki Mitchem

Parliament's transport committee have rejected a European Commission proposal to open up ground–handling services to greater competition.

During the meeting on 6 November MEPs cited fears that this could lead to lower wages for workers without seriously improving service quality in return. Members also voted to preserve local communities' say over airport noise restrictions and improve the way slots are allocated at airports, which are all part of the same airports legislative package.

Groundhandling services

Airlines can currently choose from at least two ground service providers at each airport, but the Commission wants this to be at least three as it believes it would improve the efficiency and quality of these services.

In a tight vote MEPs supported the position of airport ground workers and baggage handlers, who the day before had protested in Brussels against the liberalisation, saying it would worsen working conditions.

Georges Bach, a Christian Democrat MEP from Luxembourg, said: "Further liberalisation and more providers won't automatically result in better service quality or efficiency. Contrary, the pressure will increase on workers, inevitably leading to wage dumping."

The rejection was supported by the S&D, Verts/ALE and GUE/NGL political groups as well as by some EPP members. By doing so, they went against the recommendation of Artur Zasada, who in his report supported liberalisation.

Airport noise

Two other pieces of the airports package survived the committee vote, albeit with important modifications.

MEPs voted to ensure that the Commission cannot overrule local authorities' decision to impose restrictions on airport noise, provided they respect the interests of local residents and all stakeholders.

Jörg Leichtfried, a Social Democrat MEP from Austria who drafted the recommendation, said: "It is important to strengthen the role of citizens and take into account the health aspect. We set the mediation process as a problem solving method between airports and their neighbours. The Commission wanted to have a right to suspend operational restrictions negotiated with citizens – that is now off the table."

However, not all members agreed. Eva Lichtenberger, a Green MEP from Austria,  said that the changes still allow the Commission to intervene to oppose operating restrictions at airports. "For example, airports that want to introduce night time flight bans, which are clearly in the interests of local citizens, could be challenged by the Commission," she said.

Allocation of airport slots

MEPs also backed improvements to the system of allocating airport slots, which are the permissions airlines need to land or take off at an airport at a specific time and date.

They supported allowing airlines to directly buy and sell slots to and from each other as well greater independence for slot coordinators. However, they rejected a Commission proposal to take away a slot from an airline if it is used less than 85% of the time. This currently happens if it is used less than 80% of the time.

Instead they backed the idea of financial sanctions. "If, as expected, the air traffic is due to significantly increase, any delay in returning a slot or worse to leave it unused should be punished financially or eventually by withdrawing the allocation," said Italian Liberal Democrat MEP Giommaria Uggias, who drafted the recommendation.

Source: ©European Parliament

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