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Norse Atlantic Signs Deal With Global Transport Workers As It Seeks Labor Backing For Transatlantic

The London-based organization that represents most of the world’s unionized transportation workers has signed a recognition agreement with Norwegian startup airline Norse Atlantic Airways.

The agreement, signed Tuesday, burnishes the airline’s affiliation with labor, which is important because predecessor airline Norwegian Air Shuttle battled with U.S. labor unions during its decade-long effort to provide transatlantic service. The pandemic shut that effort down in January.

Norse Atlantic announced in March that it plans to offer low-cost transatlantic service beginning in December, using Boeing 787 Dreamliners.

The carrier plans to begin contract negotiations next week with the Association of Flight Attendants. “We’re working to nail down compliance with the rules that keep competition fair,” AFA President Sara Nelson said recently. “I’m optimistic we can do that in the case of Norse.”

In the joint statement on Wednesday, Norse and London-based International Transport Federation, a loose affiliation of 18.5 million workers in about 650 unions in 170 companies, said the recognition agreement has “the goal of securing collective bargaining agreements with the airline’s future cabin crew and pilots in Europe and the U.S.

“Both parties commit to seeing an airline that is built on good labor relations and a culture of dialogue,” they said in a prepared statement. Norse CEO Bjorn Tore Larsen added: "I welcome this agreement as my more than thirty years working together with the unions in the maritime industry has proven that dialogue is always beneficial for all parties.”

The agreement includes commitments to an annual consultative council between management and labor, recognition of global labor standards and a training program.

In an email, ITF General Secretary Stephen Cotton said, “The agreement responds to a request from our unions already in discussions or that had already achieved recognition with Norse Atlantic to develop a global platform that could bring together unionized workers in the company in a coordinated way.”

“The ITF sees the agreement as a positive step for the aviation industry as it recognizes that right of workers to organize at the outset and provides a framework to build good industrial relations in the airline from the outset,” he said.

Cotton said Norse has signed recognition agreements with two key United Kingdom based unions: the British Airline Pilots Association and Unite, which represents flight attendants and other workers at British Air. In the U.S., the Air Line Pilots Association has so far been unreceptive to Norse.

Both AFA and ALPA back a pending House bill limiting the right of flags of convenience carriers to operate in the U.S. In a letter last month to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) wrote, “If Norse Atlantic Airways’ business model is predicated on the same flag-of-convenience concept that we saw in the case of Norwegian and its various alter egos, the public interest demands that the department deny the carrier’s application for a foreign air carrier permit.”

Norse must convince Congress that its model is different.

This article originally appeared on Forbes

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