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Hampshire air traffic controllers join demonstration in Brussels
IT is the controversial aviation scheme which will have a far-reaching impact on air traffic in Europe’s skies.
Now union members from Hampshire-based air traffic control management firm NATS will join major demonstrations in Brussels today against plans for a Single European Sky initiative.
The SES2+ legislation is aimed at streamlining air traffic in the European Union’s busy skies by designating airspace in blocks rather than by national borders.
The legislation, being considered by the European Commission, also features new practices and technology aimed to halve air traffic costs by 2020 and could come in as early as next spring.
But the Prospect and PCS unions representing staff at NATS, which is the UK’s air traffic control provider and based at Swanwick, fear this will jeopardise safety and passenger service and lead to huge job losses.
They say the economic model and its stringent performance targets will lead to forced centralising and outsourcing of support services such as communications, navigation and surveillance and could ultimately lead to the UK losing control over its own airspace.
The protest – outside the European Parliament – is being supported by air traffic management (ATM) unions from across Europe and is timed to coincide with the meeting of the parliament’s transport and tourism committee which is responsible for the scheme.
It is just the latest step in a campaign by NATS employees and their Prospect and PCS union representatives who are threatening to take industrial action if the plans are pushed through.
Prospect national secretary Emily Boase said: “The effects of SES2+ will be felt by our members and colleagues across Europe. 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.”
She said the “miniscule” cost savings would leave passengers with a much poorer service and added: “It is vital that the UK government adds its voice to those of the French and German governments.”
PCS national officer Jeremy Gautrey added: “The European Commission is seeking to introduce legislation that does not have the support of air traffic management industry staff, national providers or European member states.
“The commission must listen and take note of staff or risk causing significant industrial unrest across Europe.”
In a statement, a NATS spokesman said: “The Commission's SESII+ proposals have yet to go through the European legislative process.
"It is premature to assume they will be adopted in their current form or that they would necessarily result in job cuts at NATS. In fact, a number of the proposals in SESII+ could present new business opportunities for us.
"We are actively working with Civil Aviation Authority, DfT and our trade body CANSO to ensure our views are reflected with European authorities.”
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