European labor groups are warning that so-called Flags of Convenience—widely used in the maritime sector—are threatening Europe’s aviation industry.

The Social Dialogue Committee for Civil Aviation in a press conference Friday urged the European Commission and newly elected Members of the Parliament to take “urgent measures” against the use of Flags of Convenience in aviation.

The Sectoral Social Dialogue Committees, established by the Commission in 1998, are the official EU representative forum for socio-economic interests. The Sectoral Social Dialogue for Civil Aviation is the European Labour Management Body representing employers and employees in the EU aviation sector. The European Cockpit Association (ECA), the European Transport Workers’ Federation (ETF), and the Association of European Airlines (AEA) are among the members of the civil aviation committee.

In the maritime sector, Flags of Convenience are used to secure access to laxer regulatory, taxation and labor regimes, the Social Dialogue Committee said.  A joint declaration signed by the group warned against the rise of Flags of Convenience in aviation, saying it would “lead European aviation to the fate of the decimated European maritime industry with almost no European crew left.”

Citing the precedent now being set by Norwegian Air International, a non-European Union airline registered in but not operating from Ireland, and flying within Europe and to the US using Thailand-based crews on a variety of Far Eastern contracts, the committee said airlines using Flags of Convenience would “undercut fair competition in the sector, avoid many regulations and scour the globe to exploit labor without European social rights and standards.” 

Vice chair of the Social Dialogue Committee Jon Horne said: “The inconvenient truth is that such companies are not creating new ‘business models’ in the market. Rather, they are exploiting regulatory loopholes and insufficiently coordinated legislation behind a distraction of publicity over a few cheap flights. They blatantly undermine the international rules and agreements designed to ensure fair competition and employment standards.”

He said that Flags of Convenience represent an “exploitation model,” which, if “not stopped now,” would simply force “currently responsible airlines into a race to the bottom and aviation jobs exit Europe for good.”

Proposed changes include revision of legislation on visas and work permits for non-EU based crews, as well as clarity on “principal place of business for airlines.”