Qatari airlines are undermining US labor standards

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A House bill that would limit access of foreign airlines to the U.S. based on substandard labor conditions for their workers is the latest round in a long — and mostly successful — fight by US airlines and aviation unions to keep low-cost foreign competition out of the U.S. market, reported Roll Call.

House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Peter DeFazio was joined by other committee leaders, including Republicans, in sponsoring the bill introduced last week and aimed at preventing “flag of convenience” airlines from undermining labor standards.

The long list of labor groups backing the bill has been campaigning for years to keep out carriers like Norwegian Air International and limit penetration by state-owned Qatar Airlines. Now the groups’ ire is focused on Air Italy, a small Italian airline owned 49 percent by Qatar Airlines.

“Today, foreign airlines can set up under a flag of convenience to exploit weak labor laws in other countries in order to save money and undercut competition,” the Oregon Democrat said in a statement. “And across the globe, there are attempts by foreign airlines to undermine important labor standards to get ahead.”

“Foreign airlines need to play by the rules or they shouldn’t be permitted to operate within the United States,” said ranking member Illinois Republican Rep. Rodney Davis. “Ignoring when they skirt regulations or labor standards in their home country only puts American workers and companies at a disadvantage.”

More than 10 US aviation unions support the bill, but a trade association representing major airlines said it would take no position. Major US airlines said they oppose new permits for proxies operating what they call subsidy-backed routes.

CEOs of United Airlines, American Airlines and Delta said in a July 12 op-ed in USA Today that state-owned airlines in cash-rich Qatar are a threat to their businesses.

“Qatar is perhaps most blatantly disrespecting its January 2018 agreement,’’ United’s Oscar Munoz, American’s Doug Parker, and Delta’s Ed Bastian said in the USA Today column. “The country pledged that its airline would not launch any flights directly between the United States and Europe.

It quickly shrugged off the commitment by investing in a failing regional Italian airline and rebranding it as Air Italy, which is now being used as a proxy for new subsidy-backed routes between the US and Italy.”

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