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IndustriALL strategy takes off in the Aerospace sector

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22 August, 2012The cyclical nature of the world’s aerospace industry demands that IndustriALL continually strengthens its strategies for representing aerospace and related industry workers in the global economy.

It’s incredible to consider that somewhere in the world an aircraft powered by a Rolls Royce, General Electric or Pratt & Whitney engine takes off every two and half seconds. It is even more incredible when the millions of high-skilled jobs that are directly related to an airplane are considered and the millions of more jobs that are created by all of the related industries that have been developed by the aerospace industry.

One common theme among all the major engine manufacturers is the amazing contribution of trade unions to the success of the industry. Workers in the aerospace sector are at the cutting edge of technology. With demand for commercial aircraft ramping up, forecasts predict that 27,000 new large civil airliners will be needed by 2030.

 Unions believe that employers and government need to take a long-term vision and invest in developing the industry by first creating an environment that implements fundamental human rights—like the right of workers to form their own unions and engage in collective bargaining. IndustriALL believes that governments should encourage employers to create partnerships with trade unions to ensure that everyone benefits from the growing and vibrant aerospace industry.

Tom Buffenbarger, President of the IndustriALL Aerospace Section notes, “the future for the world’s economic prosperity lies in the strength of the world’s aerospace industry and the strength of the world’s aerospace industry depends on strong labor unions.” The next generation of aerospace workers  must be fully integrated into the industry to ensure the development of the new technologies, ideas and skills that have always been present in this great industry.

Much of the growth predicted is set to occur in the Asia Pacific where 33 per cent of world traffic is expected to take place by 2030.  China, which has targeted the aerospace industry, has yet to recognize fundamental human rights for its workers. As a result, its continuing growth in the industry presents a sizeable challenge for workers not only in China who do not enjoy basic rights, but also workers outside of China.

In response IndustriALL is developing a global strategy through its aerospace steering committee that will offer affiliates a  common vision for stronger labour unions that will contribute to the global aerospace industry.  Among many items, the committee formed a global alliance of the world’s aerospace unions two years ago and will be strengthening these alliance efforts. Other strategies include, coordination with other GUFs like the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) on projects like the current examination of new trends in the industry such as the growth of Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) agreements.

These agreements started in the mid 90’s as the aero-engine manufacturers embarked in a strategy to capture the maintenance value in an engine as part of the product life cycle. The industry is estimated to be worth 46 billion USD and forecast to grow by 4 per cent over the coming decade.

The challenge for unions is to ensure that this growth sector is organized and that the traditional maintenance carried out by union members in many airlines is not outsourced as a cost cutting measure to undermine workers terms and conditions in the airlines. As the end user and customer it’s also important for aviation workers and unions to support aerospace workers in conflict.

In order to achieve this aim IndustriALL has been working closely with the ITF and the outcomes of this work will be published later this year. In the coming year, the aerospace section will also be developing many other action-oriented projects involving innovative approaches to better representing IndustriALL’s affiliates in this essential and vibrant industry.