Trade unions, joint agreements and the right to strike are all concepts that are well planted in the Norwegian spinal cord. Therefore, I can understand that it shakes the political reflex when someone comes from outside and says that “we do not do that”. But to call Wizz Air junk for that reason is just nonsense, as long as the crown example of this in European aviation is Norwegian. Or, Norwegian, as they call themselves.
Those with some long-term memory may remember the pilot strike in the spring of 2015. The pilots wanted better protection of their employment. After costing his employer large sums, and ruining the travel experience for hundreds of thousands of Norwegians, they were, thanks to the effort, moved to a staffing agency instead. This was upheld by the Supreme Court as perfectly legal a couple of years later.
Now Norwegian has declared the agencies bankrupt, dismissed almost everyone, and run away from the whole bill. That’s nonsense.
While «new Norwegian» operates increasingly creative financial acrobatics to get Norwegian taxpayers to take the bill, Wizz Air is knocking on the door, and wants in without costing a penny. New jobs will be created, and those who travel will get a good offer. But this is clearly not how we should have it in this country.
In a country we are used to to pay twice as much, plus VAT, for everything, it’s easy to believe that something gurgles when airline tickets are posted for a hundred bucks a piece. “Social dumping and labor exploitation”, the unions shout. But it is very far from reality.
We who work at Wizz Air have local employment contract in the country where we are employed, and we have a direct employment relationship with the company. The salary is competitive, and the relationship tidy. Local labor laws apply. I work in the UK, and have a completely normal employment relationship under British law. Colleagues in other European countries have the same in their respective countries.
Low cost is not the same as social dumping. By keeping expenses down and operating efficiently, we can offer affordable travel. It gives far more people the opportunity to travel, the market expands, and more jobs are created. Without the opportunity to offer lower prices, there would have been far fewer pilots and cabin crew at work. It’s that simple.
Internally, Wizz Air has a large social engagement. We have company parties, Christmas parties, leisure activities, and bosses who talk directly to us. Although Wizz Air is starting to become an adult company, the culture is more like a startup business. When Oslo and Trondheim were announced as new bases, it received a lot of attention. Not because the Eastern Europeans were finally to come to Norway and form a trade union, but because Wizz Air already flies to several destinations in Norway, and very many colleagues have been here on holiday.
Imagine that, Polish and Hungarian cabin crew on holiday in Norway! They can afford it, and our tickets are cheap.
By all means, I do not mind unions, they have contributed very much well over the years, but to say that those who are not unionized are exploited, and that companies without unions are junk, is just nonsense. It is actually possible to operate properly without.
If Erna still does not want to travel with us, it’s all right, but then I hope she at least pays for her plane ticket herself.
This is how Norwegian responds:
At Norwegian, we are now concentrating on securing our 2,300 jobs in Norway in order to maintain critical infrastructure in Norway and connect our country with routes from Kristiansand in the south to Svalbard in the north. We will also maintain an international route network so that we can fly tourists into Norway, fly Norwegians out into the world and ensure that the export industry can get its goods out into the international market.
Our employees have always had competitive wage and working conditions and the vast majority have been unionized with a collective agreement, whether they have worked in Norway, Sweden, Denmark, England or Spain. The Konrona situation has paralyzed large parts of air traffic around the world and it has unfortunately affected more than 8000 of our colleagues, including in Sweden where our subsidiary was filed for bankruptcy earlier this year.
Lasse Sandaker-Nielsen, Information Director, Norwegian
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