Pilots' lay-offs ruled illegal: FÍA wins Labour Court case against Bluebird Nordic and SA
Today, the Icelandic Labor court issued a ruling in the case of the Icelandic Airline Pilots' Association (FÍA) against the Confederation of Icelandic Enterprise (SA) on behalf of Bluebird Nordic. The ruling confirmed that it was illegal of Bluebird to lay-off pilots working according to a CLA with FÍA members while hiring bogus self-employed pilots to replace them. This is an important precedent as the victory is not only important for pilots but for all unions in the country.
"The facts of the case are that a rapidly growing Icelandic airline laid off all its pilot who were union members, only weeks after having hired a comparable number of bogus self-employed contractors, ready to replace the union pilots. This was done despite the fact that the Collective Labor Agreement between the parties contained a clear provision on the priority rights of FÍA members to work for Bláfugl, which the court confirmed was still valid, just as the Court of Appeal had previously ruled," says Jón Þór Þorvaldsson, FÍA president.
"This is an important victory for unions, regulators and the government, who are all fighting against bogus self-employment."
AGM of the FÍA Pension Fund 2021
The Annual General Meeting of the FÍA Pension Fund (EFÍA) will be held on Thursday, 3 June 2021 at 13:00 at the FÍA headquarters in Hlíðasmári 8, Kópavogur.
All fund members have the right to attend the meeting, participate in discussions, and to submit proposals.
Further information about the meeting can be found here.
Appeal Court confirms legitimacy of FÍA actions
The strike actions of the Icelandic Airline Pilots' Association (FÍA) against Bluebird Nordic, which began in February 2021, were ruled legitimate by the Landsréttur Appeal Court last Friday. Originally, Bluebird had requested a ban on the strike actions from the District Commissioner, and when this was denied they appealed to the District Court. When the Court confirmed the Commissioners ruling, the case was appealed to the Landsréttur, only to have it yet again confirmed that the strike actions were legal.
The ruling of the Appeal Court reaffirmed once again one of the main principles in Icelandic labor law that when a wage agreement expires or is terminated, the rights and obligations of the parties continue in accordance with an earlier agreement while there is still no agreement, and no strike has taken place. Therefore, the priority right provisions for FÍA members were still valid when Bluebird Nordic hired 10 pilots as bogus self-employed contractors in November and fired the corresponding number of FÍA pilots in the following month.
The Appeal Court also confirmed that a legal strike, announced by a trade union, binds all workers in the profession in question, as well as those outside the trade union. In other words, the pilots who flew for Bluebird during the strike were strike-breakers and the FIA's actions to defend the strike were perfectly legal.
Landsréttur also held that Bluebird Nordic had to bear the brunt of not disclosing the terms and conditions of employment of the pilots it to be "self-employed contractors". This once again provides clear evidence that Bluebird is carrying out pseudo-contracting that they are trying to keep out of the light of day.
As specified earlier, Landsréttur upheld the ruling of the district commissioner and later the district court and furthermore requires Bluebird Nordic also to pay FÍA ISK 440,000 in appeal costs.
It should also be noted that the main proceedings in the Labour Court case, concerning the legality of the FÍA pilots’ dismissals, took place in April and a ruling is expected shortly.
The FÍA newsletter for the month of April is now out, featuring articles on e.g. safety issues, the pension fund investments, ITS Iceland, flight crew vaccinations, and work on changes to pilot training.
The English half of the newsletter begins on page 16 - click here to read!
New CLA with Norlandair approved
A new Collective Labour Agreement was signed by FÍA and Norlandair at the Icelandic Aviation Museum in Akureyri on 16. March, 2021. The agreement was then approved by all pilots through e-voting that concluded on Monday, 22. March.
„On behalf of FÍA‘s negotiating committee I congratulate all Norlandair pilots on the new CLA, and to the representatives of the company I send thanks for the efficient collaboration. A new CLA marks a new beginning, and I hope that it will prove the basis to empower the development of Norlandair and its market position,“ said Högni B. Ómarsson, head of FÍA‘s negotiation committee with Norlandair. „I hope we will soon receive news that the pilots who lost their jobs last year due to the recession will be rehired. Let‘s look with bright eyes ahead, and not dwell on the difficult times that have passed. We should celebrate these results.“
FÍA congratulates the Norlandair pilots on their new CLA.
Happy faces at the signing of the new CLA.
From left: Jón Karl Ólafsson, Arnar Friðriksson, Þorvaldur Lúðvík Sigurjónsson, Davíð Smári Jóhannsson, Halla Kristjánsdóttir, Högni B. Ómarsson. The picture is missing Örnólfur Jónsson.
Bluebird Nordic and Social Dumping
Important judicial precedent
In February, the UK‘s Supreme Court ruled that Uber drivers must be treated as workers and not self-employed. The decision could mean that thousands of Uber drivers are entitled to minimum wage according to UK CLA‘s, as well as enjoying the rights and privileges they entail such as holiday and sick pay.
The Supreme Court ruled that Uber has behaved like an employer by setting rates, assigning rides, requiring drivers to follow certain routes and using a rating system to discipline them. Drivers are workers, according to the Court, because of Uber‘s level of control over them. This sounds very familiar to the thousands of supposedly „self-employed“ pilots in Europe
In a recent article from ECA, it states that the national labour and aviation authorities typically struggle to identify bogus self-employment, which has allowed the phenomenon of bogus self-employment to flourish in the past decade.
The article calls for authorities to take a firm stand so that pilots cannot be considered self-employed any more than Uber drivers are. FÍA agrees with ECA‘s point of view and encourages the Icelandic authorities to take a stand in these matters as regards bogus self-employment for pilots in Iceland.
FÍA wins District Court Ruling
Strikes ruled legal
- The Icelandic District Court has confirmed the decision of the District Commissioner of the Capital area that FÍA‘s strike actions were legal, and that they would not be subject to an injunction.
- The Court also confirms there is doubt as to the legitimacy of the layoffs of the FÍA pilots.
- The ruling gives indications that contract pilots are in fact wage earners.
- FÍA‘s CLA with Bluebird is still valid according to the Court
A ruling was issued on Friday, 5. March 2021, in the District Courts regarding the case that Bluebird Nordic filed against Icelandic Airline Pilots‘ Association (FIA), where Bluebird requested an injunction on the strike actions of the FÍA pilots that are working according to a collective labour agreement (CLA). The District Commissioner had earlier refused such an injunction request, but Bluebird appealed that decision to the District Courts.
However, the District Court confirmed the decision of the District Commissioner in regard to the legality of the strike actions, stating that nothing implied that the strike hadn‘t been executed according to law. This means that FÍA is in full right when they stand guard on the legally noticed strike, making sure that the work of those on strike isn‘t performed by others.
Court doubts legitimacy of layoffs
The results of the District Court further supports FÍA‘s arguments in its fight against illegal social dumping and bogus self-employment of Bluebird contractors. FÍA filed a case in the Icelandic Labour Court last week regarding the illegal layoffs of CLA contracted Bluebird pilots.
It is clear, from the ruling, that the court believes there is doubt about the legitimacy of the layoffs of the FÍA pilots. It is mentioned by the Court that during the CLA negotiations between Bluebird and FÍA, Bluebird had hired 10 pilots as contractors, and a few weeks later laid off ten directly employed FÍA union pilots: “In view of article 01-3 of the former CLA, which is still in effect, and where it states that the recruitment or leasing of pilots to the claimant should not in any way delay the promotions and other career developments of permanent employees, who are union members of the defendant, and should not lead to them being dismissed, the court finds there is doubt as to the legitimacy of the aforementioned resignations.“ It is FÍA‘s belief that Bluebird has hired in bogus self-employment contractors in order to lay off pilots who are union members and work according to a CLA.
The court also gives indications to the fact that the pilots hired in as contractors are actually wage earners, i.e. bogus self-employment contractors, but they could not say for certain as Bluebird did not put forth any evidence supporting that they were in fact contractors.
The Court stated that Bluebird had neither proved nor put forth a good argument that FÍA‘s labour actions have violated its legal rights. Also, the court ruled that Bluebird is to pay for the cost of the case, evaluated at ISK 620.000.
Board of FÍA 2021-2022
A new Board of the Icelandic Airline Pilots' Association (FÍA) took office following the Annual General Meeting on 18. February, 2021. No e-voting was held this year as the Board was self-elected.
The Board is as follows:
Jón Þór Þorvaldsson, ICE (2022)
Guðmundur Már Þorvarðarson, ICE (2023)
Högni Björn Ómarsson, ICE (2022)
Steindór Ingi Hall, ICE (2022)
Sara Hlín Sigurðarsdóttir, ICE (2022)
Hólmar Logi Sigmundsson, LHG (2023)
Gunnar Björn Bjarnason, AIC (2022)
Haraldur Helgi Óskarsson, AAI (2023)
G. Birnir Ásgeirsson, AAI (2023)
FÍA's Annual General Meeting 2021
The Icelandic Airline Pilot´s Association's Annual General Meeting will be held at Hilton Reykjavik Nordica, Suðurlandsbraut 2, Thursday 18th February 2021 at 20:00 .
- Election of Board members.
- The association’s board reports on the association’s operations.
- The association’s pronounced accounts are submitted.
- Law changes - see propositions attached-.
- Election of 2 account surveyors.
- Election of FÍA Seniority working committee.
- Other matters.
Kindly register for the meeting at e-mail address email@example.com due to effective retrictions of gatherings.
The GAM will also be available through live streaming. Link to live stream will be sent out later.
Bluebird Nordic strike
Iceland‘s battle against social dumping
On February 1st 2021, union pilots of the cargo airline Bluebird Nordic (BBN) began their legally proposed strike action. A month earlier, on December 30th, the airline laid-off all pilots working under a Collective Labour Agreement, 11 in total, announcing that from now on Bluebird would only use self-employed pilots.
Bluebird Nordic, owned by Cypress based Avia Solutions Group, has for some time contracted bogus self-employed pilots through a broker agency that is not registered in Iceland and therefore illegal. To be clear, pilots working for airlines do not meet any of the legal requirements for contracting and therefore can't be considered contractors. Hence, such precarious form of employment is atypical, and cannot be considered anything else than bogus self-employment.
Before the letters of dismissals were sent, Bluebird Nordic had actively participated in negotiations with the Icelandic Airline Pilots‘ Association (FÍA) so the lay-offs came as a great surprise to the pilots: Laying off all union members during negotiations on terms and conditions is in clear violation of Article 4 of the Icelandic legislation on Trade Unions and Industrial Disputes (No. 80/1938) as well as the basic constitutional right of freedom of association.
The Collective Labour Agreement (CLA) between FÍA and Bluebird Nordic is still valid, and the pilots that were laid-off are still working in accordance to it. BBN has stated that the CLA is no longer valid, which FIA rejects referring to ongoing negotiations and scheduled meetings with the State Mediator. The current CLA states very specifically that hiring of pilots outside of the Icelandic Airline Pilots‘ Association may not lead to lay-offs of FÍA members within Bluebird.
Global Compact „participant“ supports the resignations
To make matters even worse for the Icelandic labour market, Bluebird‘s actions were supported by the Confederation of Icelandic Enterprise– itself a vocal participant of UN‘s Global Compact: A compact that stresses the importance of freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining.
The Confederation‘s support of Bluebird runs counter to their official positions of supporting a healthy labour market, and sets a very negative precedent.
Strike began with violations
Bluebird Nordic‘s reactions to the strike were swift: They removed all FÍA pilots off their flights from the time that the strike was to begin, replacing them with contractors which is a clear strike violation.
FÍA is thankful for the great show of support during this ongoing dispute and fight against social dumping – not only from fellow unions within aviation in Iceland and the The Icelandic Confederation of Labour (ASI), but also from abroad, such as the Nordic Transport Worker‘s Federation, the International Transport Worker‘s Federation, IFALPA, and the Danish Flight Personnel Union.