View Full Version : Free movement of labour in the EU? Yeah Right!

3rd Feb 2009, 10:55
Watching the simpering Lord Mandelson deliver his rebuke to the naughty jingoistic workers daring to protest at the presence of Johnny foreigner .....but the slightest peek at our industry shows that the principles of free movement of workers in the European Union is alive and well.

One way in our direction that is.

Anyone hazard a guess at how many Brits abroad there are collecting Euros for driving planes for Lufthansa, Air France, KLM, AlItalia....etc?

I really do not know the answer but from the evidence of my own experience UK aviation PLc has had an open door policy to anyone and everyone whilst every other European operation has looked after its own.

A friend of mine with all the right experience, fluently bilingual and with a French mother, did not even get an interview at Air France.

So what? you may say.

Well with the storm clouds of recession upon us and bouts of redundancy already gripping the corporate market I dare to suggest that a debate on who we let into our Industry and why is not inappropriate.

It makes me uneasy to see good guys being slung onto the dole queue when there blatantly does not exist an even Europe wide playing field in our industry.

3rd Feb 2009, 11:05
When Spain joined the EU and signed up to all this free movement of labour malarky, they decided some jobs would always be reserved for Spanish citizens, born in Spain to Spanish parents.

So visit the law courts and police, welfare offices and any form of social security, you will never find a foreigner employed there. Applies to may other civil service or local authorities.

I have friends born of English parents resident in Spain, and no way can they ever become a judge or court official here (which being bright, multi-lingual and full of learning is what they wanted to do).

Quite different from visiting Islington Council where you need to speak Swahili or another African language to be understood, oops, I shouldn't have said that, delete it.

3rd Feb 2009, 11:09
You're barking up the wrong flagpole, Tinytim. Times have moved on.

For example, who would buy an Airbus if it were 100% froggie: no Germans, Brits and Spanish in Toulouse designing, selling, and supporting it?

You'd have a Caravelle setup all over again, and customer service would close for a 2hr lunch.

Captain Stable
3rd Feb 2009, 11:21
I think the avenue that the protesting workers need to explore is not "Why are foreigners allowed to get those jobs?" but place the emphasis more on "Why are Brits NOT allowed to apply for those jobs?"

I would be very interested to know what the job terms are - the company denies that the imported workers are cheaper, placing emphasis on their skills, but I think the government needs to put pressure on them to limit the time the imported workers can remain in those jobs and to provide training for the (apparently) under-skilled Brits. In this way the government would be seen to support British jobs AND British workers while not being unfair to migrant workers.

Anyone seen "Auf Wiedersehen Pet"?

3rd Feb 2009, 11:23
Tinytim! And where is all this protectionism leading to? What is it exactly you are hoping for? What will happen once we don't allow in any further foreigners and but things don't improve? Are we then going to turn on the ones already living here. What's next on your list? Kicking out all non UK passport holders with jobs in the UK? After all I suppose you feel that those are jobs for British people. I am German, I have been living here for almost twenty years. Always working and always paying taxes. And talk like yours does make me wonder where we heading. There are EU rules in place to prevent foreigners from being paid less then their UK counterparts. If those rules are broken they can be challenged in court. Further more I guess 80 -90% of Europeans under 40 have a very high command of the English language which has opened their playing field vastly. The UK population in general has very poor foreign language skills, there for limiting their work opportunities in Europe greatly. Short sighted protectionism in time of a crisis is surely not the answer in todays global economy. Especially not in the aviation industry since it's existence is largely based on people living, working and traveling all over the world.

tony draper
3rd Feb 2009, 11:37
Interesting comment on news night last night when this was being discussed,apparently a job advert appeared for electricians to work in Ireland recently,that included the words Applicants must speak Portugese.
Yup no discrimination there.

3rd Feb 2009, 11:45
"What is all this protectionism leading to":confused:

What protectionism?

Unlike our European compadres we have a very significant number of non UK EU pilots working here.

My complaint is that through (doubtless unofficial) protectionism it has been made quite clear to Uk pilots that Europe is not open for business and as a result there is a disproportionate number of foreign pilots here now due to the one way flow of labour.

I am not suggesting anything so crass or ignorant as suggesting that these guys be told to go home.

What I am suggesting is that now the chips are down and it hurts, some of us are paying the price.

The Airbus project may be an excellent example of cross boarder cooperation at a design and construction stage (We will not of course make reference to the exclusively French test crew on the A380 maiden flight or that there was not a single UK engineer on board) but that does not exist when it comes to aircrew.

I would like to see Balpa taking on this issue and getting Lord Mandy to use some of his eloquence at Brussels in exposing these practises and shaming the big players into compliance.

3rd Feb 2009, 11:46
Not necessarily discrimination. There may be a good reason why the applicants need to speak Portugese.

If the advert had said only Portugese nationals need apply, that would have been a different matter altogether....

Captain Stable
3rd Feb 2009, 11:48
It may be a good way for Brazilian electricians to avoid being shot dead on the London tube... :ok:

3rd Feb 2009, 12:29
I've spent some time working on a contract at the other end of the tunnel and I was recently invited back for another, much longer contract. I didn't take up the offer because I'm committed to a contract here in UK, but as far as I can see, the tunnel has two ends and we (at least I am) are perfectly free to work at either end of it. :ok:

None of the Belgians seemed to be upset by the arrangement - there were no picket lines and none of that pathetic "Disclosure Scotland" nonsense either.

3rd Feb 2009, 12:33
I hope that this time it's not gonna end up like in the 30's in Germany... Have a look at the 15 years who followed the big crash (1929). I m not sure that in Europe we want the same scenario to happen again... Do we? There are solutions and moderate protectionism is one of them.

If not happy, click on the link:


Conan The Barber
3rd Feb 2009, 12:43
Unlike our European compadres we have a very significant number of non UK EU pilots working here. Is that something you know or just something you believe?

If you actually had been around a bit of Europe, you would soon realize that there are people from everywhere working everywhere. Including Brits.

3rd Feb 2009, 12:47
I wonder how many of the strikers, protesting that it should be UK jobs for UK workers are happy to stand on the picket line wearing clothes made in the Far East ( cost) , watch the news on TV's made in the Far East ( cost) and possibly drive cars not made in UK factories (cost) and have their Football team, and hence their season tickets sponsored by a foreign company ("Emirates Stadium" my a***).......BA plc is only trying to do the same so perhaps there's just an element of hypocracy here - anyone remember the old "buy British" campaign - now no doubt illegal!

But, having said all that, and having witnessed first hand the way the French have very carefullu locked up their own job market (sound similar to the comments about Spain mentioned earlier) I do feel the UK Government has been remarkably cavalier and/or slack in it's approach to the use and abuse of foreign Labour.

3rd Feb 2009, 13:05
Conan......just go into your crew room and look around. If you work for a half decent UK operator I absolutely guarantee you will have a significant percentage of non UK EU nationals. A couple of years ago my company seemed to employ nothing but Dutch guys straight out of flying school. No idea why.

Ever heard of any mate getting a flying job in France, Germany, Spain or Italy?


Neither have I.

Whiskey Oscar Golf
3rd Feb 2009, 13:21
As someone pointed out earlier, these will be interesting times ahead. When people feel there is an inequity based on race or nationality it can sometimes turn funky. The problem with free market styles is there will always be someone trying to get that little more. That could be protectionism of employment, industries or even currencies. This gives them an edge and they can move forward and take advantage of the bias.

GB has the added problem of old colonies that seem to require the contrition factor that also often evolves into a guilty empowerment that causes the same sort of angst.

In Oz we have a visa system called 457 and our skilled intake is on a profession specific basis, or big dollars. It seems to work but it will shortly start the resentment that British pilots might be feeling about their own exemption for whatever reason from employment in their own "free" market friends industries.

Conan The Barber
3rd Feb 2009, 13:24
So you have no experince of what is actually happening in Europe, other than the situation in your own company and that of some mates. Perhaps you should get some more mates:p

I take it the ability to speak the local language is a requirement for employment in a UK airline. Where I work there are more than 10 different languages spoken in the crewroom. Everybody speaks a 2nd language or a 3rd or 4th. Except the Brits. After more than 10 years here they haven't even attempted to learn the local language.

3rd Feb 2009, 13:27
Some Facts lifted from the BBC article regarding the wildcat strikes.

The amount of EU nationals working in the UK substantially outnumbers those British citizens earning their livelihoods abroad.
In the final quarter of 2008, there were 1.1 million EU nationals working in the UK, compared with 290,000 UK citizens working across the EU.

3rd Feb 2009, 13:48
Just wait until they start dishing out the contracts for new build nuclear power stations, then see how many foreign companies/employees arrive in the country.

Probably no one in the UK has the skills to build these projects.

3rd Feb 2009, 13:57
Interesting thread. What I gather is that most people don't mind EU nationals coming here to work but its more of an "up hill" struggle for us Brits to get jobs in other countries (if we apply) and even in our own country.

If you consider the education system in the continent most further and advanced education and training is free. Where we have to pay for it and get a huge loan. A French friend of mine got is type rating paid for by the French government, no cost at all for him. So if you took a British Pilot who had to pay for his/her TR, they probable can't afford to take any job no matter where it is. Where my French friend can, in any EU state.

The benefits system also penalises British citizens. I recently had an interview for an Austrian outfit. I was on the dole at the time and guess what? I had my benefits stopped for a full month! Because I'd left the country, even though my passport as "European Union" stamped all over it. I even produced a letter confirming I had a attended an interview. If I was a citizen from another EU country I would of kept all my benefits.

I think most right-minded folk just want a level playing field. Unfortunately, we will never get that while we have that crook Mandelson and his incompetent boss Brown in charge.


Captain Stable
3rd Feb 2009, 14:07
The rules will automatically apply to the detriment of British workers thanks to our national laziness, the education system and the language situation in Europe generally. I recall a few years back applying for a 757 job with Icelandair. I was told they had an inclusive nationality policy, but that all applicants had to be able to speak Icelandic. Gotcha!

Most companies will insist on applicants being able to speak the language of the country in which they are to operate. In other words, in general, if applying for a job in Portugal you will need to be able to speak Portuguese. Not many of them among the Brits.

If applying for a job in the Czech Republic you will need to speak Czech. Not many of those among Brits, either. Or Hungarian or Netherlands or...

But you get the picture.

In the meantime, the incidence of English among Johnny Foreigner (as Herr Draper might term them) is (distressingly) high. Now I speak fairly fluent French, some Italian, Spanish and Greek, but I couldn't hold a conversation on a flight deck or query my payslip. I could order a coffee from the cabin crew, but that would exhaust about 15% of my ability. And so they're not keen to employ me. And yet BA is able to recruit any number of European English-speakers.

3rd Feb 2009, 14:36
Just something that came to my mind...as for the likes of Lufthansa for example. Now how many Foreigners that speak German do you know? Well and now the other way around, how many German pilots speaking english do you know? And now as a fact, there are quite a few pilots from the netherlands (from the likes of MartinAir e.g.) at Lufthansa....however, those pilots are capable of speaking german at least a bit.

Now as one can't hardly pass the BU and FQ to qualify for employment with Lufthansa without speaking german...there you have your reason. (for a fact hardly 5% of applicants if at all make that test, even when fluent in german or native speaker) Now those that scream, that there is no chance for foreigners to get into LH...there is. I personally know people from outside germany having made it...but of course they were able to speak german.

As many Germans (at least the younger generations) speak english or have been abroad for flight training or other reason, the BA selection process might be at least in somewhat easier to pass in terms of the language-barrier (it is for sure not easier in every other aspect than the LH-Test).

Best Regards

For AF I can't speak.

3rd Feb 2009, 14:50
Over here I know of several British friends who fly, for example in Cargolux and KLM.

I know of a plethora of British people (several of them good friends) who work in Management and other ground positions in airlines in the region.

And many, many Brits working in other industries here.

All of them multilingual, though :D

'Nuff said.

3rd Feb 2009, 14:57
If you consider the education system in the continent most further and advanced education and training is free. Where we have to pay for it and get a huge loan.

I think another problem is the relentless dumbing down of our education system. Kids are encouraged to go to 'university' to get 'degrees' in Tourism & Hotel Management, Sports Science (whatever that is), Health & Beauty Therapy etc. Apparently, these are the qualifications that the government has decided the 'highly skilled' workforce of tomorrow needs. Meanwhile, academically rigorous but unfashionable subjects and practical hands on vocational qualifications like City & Guilds are increasingly overlooked. And people are surprised that skilled jobs go to foreign nationals.

4th Feb 2009, 14:06
I am a (half) brit living and working abroad, for a company that is likely to send me to work in any number of different countries over the next few decades. I have many colleaugues here who speak english fluently as a second language, and are also living away from their own country.

I would love to learn a second language to fluency (I speak one quite well already, and can get by in a couple of others) but...which one? English speakers are a victim of their language's success; it is so ubiquitous that it is the language of choice for most multinational companies. It is therefore a no-brainer to learn as a second language. But if it's your first language...what other one could possibly be as useful? Nothing else is spoken anywhere near as widely geographically. I could learn more Dutch, as I currently live in Holland; but I am sure to move on soon, and then what use is that to me? English is useful anywhere I go.

I think a decent bet right now might be mandarin...I can't speak much yet though, and writing it is a b***h!

4th Feb 2009, 14:19
Whatever happened to Esperanto I wonder?
Worked in Holland, spoke Dutch.
Worked in France, spoke French.
Biggest problem in BOTH places was that the
locals all wanted to speak English.
Bl**dy annoying at times.
Funniest bit was at UTA in CDG, got teamed up
with a cloggie, spoke a lot of Dutch to each other,
much to the frogs' annoyance. :ok:

4th Feb 2009, 15:05
The first thing that happens in any economic downturn is that people fear for their jobs. The next thing is to scapegoat someone. Foreigners do nicely for that.

As for the airline business and aviation, it was always multinational there is always a sprinkling of non nationals in various capacities. Certainly as far as Brits were concerned you meet them all over the world in all sorts of jobs in aviation.

But I do think the main carriers in many European countries tend to employ mostly their own. Let's be honest, how many French, Germans, Dutch, Italians or Spanish work for BA? It's the same here, Aer Lingus always had Irish and Brits but it was rare enough to find any other nationality. LoCos like Easyjet and Ryanair are different being somewhat multinational in character. But even then, although Ryanair might deny this, Brits and Irish would be favoured however subtly that might be applied.

You really can't generalise, but to be honest if Britain is more open to hiring foreigners. Why is that a bad thing? Doesn't that reflect favourably on the country? I think it does.

5th Feb 2009, 01:25
A friend of mine with all the right experience, fluently bilingual and with a French mother, did not even get an interview at Air France.
So what? you may say.

Well, AFAIK, he's entitled to French passport. Having passport and being truly fluent in French with French mom DOES MAKE you French (unless you don't feel so..).
I remember my teacher mentioning the principle by which one is judged as French or non-French. Speaking the language and upholding the values of the Republic plus feeling French oneself. Yes, many countries have their quirks, but..

So where's the problem? Did your friend show up with UK passport?? :ugh:
Was Glasgow instead of Grenoble as birthplace show-stopper in AF's view?

I'm just watching from far away, couple years until I qualify and even then I don't feel like flying for an airline (aviation future, though). I do agree that countries with minority languages do have such criteria imposed and it's de facto protectionism.

I believe it's also a remnant of the past. If one's qualified and able to do the job, then why not? Surely, outside cockpit, there's the world of that foreign language. I've read something similar about Czech Rep and UK and other citizenship pilots enquiring about jobs for CSA and someone mentioned that the only hassle is dealing with non-cockpit job related stuff.
Not everyone is proficient in English but working in administration of the company. I see that as part of the problem as well, besides any national feeling sentiment.

Well, out of that 1.1 mil EU nationals in the UK is about 1.0 Polish (plus bit and bobs of other 2004 EU accession countries, including myself).
I'd say those Brits living abroad are either retired couples sunning on a costa or highly skilled labour (and some mixed marriages, of course). Unlike the mix of skilled and non-skilled, students, temp jobs etc workers in the UK. THEY SAY 'WORKING'. Uhm, so not pensioners. Maybe English teachers buff up the numbers. Do they count ROI in it and all the folks from NI with UK passport but working South of border?? Or kids from mixed marriages living in the other parent's country.

Just like stats in Slovakia saying x people work abroad in EU (but of those, 85-90% work in Czech Rep). I'd have a look at state by state numbers of UK citizens working in EU.

Andy S and others
As for the 'Portugese speaking' electrician vacancy in Ireland, I can't think of any situation where it would be conducive to business other than catering for 'friends'. IF it was something of a tech support in foreign language, yeah, sure. I seriously doubt that guy/gal would do fixing wiring and equipment during day and sitting behind PC doing Port. phone/online support. Or maybe the company wants to explore other markets and needs someone to break in?? Just like Indian restaurant chefing vacancies. Speaking Hindi preferred. Or Chinese.

I'd like to get some international experience in engineering later on (if not flying), but frankly, speaking a language casually does not mean being fit for technical side of it. But then, I'm not one of those who can't learn languages (neither Spanish nor native Brit :hmm:)

6th Feb 2009, 10:21

Well it sounds to me like you are putting a twist at it saying that you have an disadvantage being a (english) native-speaker. However If i got you wrong, i apologize for the following.

To my mind, english native speakers do get a head-start due to the fact that your mother-tongue is as you also pointed out spoken almost everywhere in the world. Now of course I would agree it is for you hard to decide which second language to learn and that decision is indeed harder than our to learn english(because there is basically now other choice). Nevertheless it is like buying an airplane. (or the value of your airline)

Your situation:
You do have an A330 (speaking english) already and now need a smaller airplane and can choose between A 320 (speaking german) and B737 (speaking french) or whatever languages you want to substitute.

Has an A 320 (German) and now needs an A 330 (english).

Now economy-wise which situation would one chose? Value-wise the A 330. I hope you get my drift. You in fact do have a luxury probleme while those only speaking german do need to learn English. So they didn't have a choice. I don't mean that personally and do not want to insult you by any means. But if someones aks you before you are born: "Which language do you want to be perfect at?" English seems like the logic answer as good command of it is required almost everywhere.

Best Regards

6th Feb 2009, 10:26
I now reread your post. I apologize wasn't reading carefully enough. You are half-brit. So my situation applies not to you but to english native speaker in general. The use of "victim of their own success" just ticked me off. As i don't see how someone can be victimized by being english. (language-wise) Best Regards.

That refers to my comment below, as it is still in administration i can't change it =).