04. feb 2021

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 BBN has stated that the CLA is no longer valid, which FIA rejects referring to ongoing negotiations and scheduled meetings with the State Mediator.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.