NATS staff protest in Brussels


Air traffic control staff take protest to Brussels

Staff working within NATS, the UK's air traffic control provider, will demonstrate outside the European Parliament on 14 October against a new legislative programme for a Single European Sky (SES 2+) which staff fear will lead to large job losses and jeopardise safety.

Prospect and PCS members in NATS will join other air traffic management (ATM) unions affiliated to the European Transport Federation, at a demonstration timed to coincide with a meeting of the Parliament's Transport and Tourism Committee, which is responsible for SES 2+.

SES is aimed at improving air traffic service through legislation, technology, new practices and airspace changes, moving to functional blocks rather than national borders.

With SES 2+ the European Commission, which sets the legislation, is looking to link the proposals to stringent performance targets. These would halve air traffic management costs by 2020 by imposing a specific economic model onto the safety infrastructure without proper consideration.

NATS' staff fear this will lead to:

  • mandatory centralising and outsourcing of support services, such as communications, navigation and surveillance systems
  • a poorer service to airlines and passengers
  • increased conflict between cost and safety
  • the widespread loss of jobsthe UK losing control over its own airspace.

The 14 October demonstration is the latest step in the campaign by NATS staff, which has already resulted in over 100 responses to letters sent to MPs and Members of the Scottish Parliament.

NATS staff have also met Department for Transport representatives to express their strength of feeling over the plans, in particular proposals to separate support and navigation services, which has led Prospect and PCS, the unions representing them, to consider industrial action.

Prospect national secretary Emily Boase said: "The effects of SES 2+ will not only be felt by our members, but also colleagues across Europe who are concerned that the requirement to separate air navigation from all other air traffic services will break the safety chain and lead to a breakdown in accountability, as we have seen previously in the railway industry.

"Air passengers would see a miniscule cost saving in return for a much poorer service.

"It is vital that the UK government adds its voice to those of the French and German governments and opposes these plans. Without significant opposition this draft legislation could become law as early as spring 2014."

PCS national officer Jeremy Gautrey added: "The European Commission is seeking to introduce legislation that does not have the support of staff working in the ATM industry, many national ATM providers or many European member states. The commission must listen and take note of staff working in ATM, or risk causing significant industrial unrest across the whole of Europe.

"While we support a more efficient ATM system, it must not be at the expense of jobs and safety. The UK's safety record and service is one of the best in Europe and this could be jeopardised by this ill-thought through legislation which, so far, has attracted little support."

Prospect represents 3,000 people working as controllers, systems engineers, scientists and specialists. PCS represents 1,000 NATS operational, managerial and support staff.