The EU-funded project “Varieties of Industrial Relations in Aviation Lockdown” came to a successful conclusion on June 8th, 2023, with a final conference, hosted by the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), in Brussels.

In addition to the core VIRAL project partners, participants included representatives of the EESC, the European Commission DG for Mobility and Transport, the European Trade Union Institute (ETUI), the European Transport Workers Federation (ETF), the European Network Airline Association (ENAA), and Airports Council International (ACI).

Social partners and policymakers dialogued across four panels, each panel chaired by a member of the VIRAL project team, supported by an internationally-recognised academic as discussant. The four panels each covered a topic central to the question of the role of industrial relations in enhancing the sustainability of the industry:

  1. Actors and strategies of the social partners in the aviation sector
  2. The role of public actors in industrial relations in the air transport sector
  3. How industrial relations addressed the pandemic crisis in the air transport value chain
  4. Strengthening collective bargaining and social dialogue as an inclusive tool to manage future challenges

Professor Michael Doherty of Maynooth University (Ireland) concluded the event, noting that the pandemic provides social partners and policymakers with a unique opportunity to explore lessons learned that can both help confront the next crisis, and put the industry on more sustainable footing. Key among these lessons are:

  1. The role of the state in providing support to the industry, including wage subsidies and support schemes. Doherty emphasised, however, the need to make future aid conditional on sustainability-related outcomes
  2. The importance of strengthening social dialogue within the sector
  3. The benefit, particular for lower-wage employees, of expanding sectoral approaches to bargaining
  4. To leverage industrial relations to confront the ecological crisis and minimising the impact of air transport

View the full conference: