Air traffic staff protest against EU plans

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Staff at the National Air Traffic Service in Whiteley are to protest in London tomorrow.

They will travel to the European Commission’s UK office for the protest at 11am.

The demonstration is part of a Europe-wide four-day protest against the Single European Sky project, which will mean costs are slashed and jobs lost in air traffic control across the continent.

The European Commission, which drafts EU laws, estimates that inefficiencies in the way Europe’s air traffic is managed add 62 miles to the average flight.

It wants to centralise air-traffic controls, rather than leave each member state to monitor its own skies. The commission says this could triple the region’s airspace capacity, cut costs and reduce delays.

The protest is part of a second day of action organised by the European Transport Federation. Members of affiliated ATM unions will take part in walkouts, rallies, meetings, protests and strikes across Europe.

The aim of SES is to improve air traffic services through legislation, technology, new practices and airspace changes, moving to functional blocks rather than national borders.

But under the latest proposals - SES 2+ - the European Commission, which sets the legislation, wants to link the plans to stringent performance targets designed to halve ATM costs by 2020. Unions say this will result in the widespread job losses.

Emily Boase, Prospect union’s national secretary, said: ‘Subjecting safety critical services to market conditions in a drive for economic returns is a step too far.

‘Providers would not even have the choice about which services would have to be undertaken by other companies – the legislation will require them to cease providing such services themselves.

‘Our members, and colleagues across Europe, are concerned that separating air navigation from 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.’

Jeremy Gautrey, national officer for the PCS union, added: ‘The UK and Europe provide excellent ATM services and while we support improvement, 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.’