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Bernie Sanders is not happy about a planned Cork to Boston flight route

The White House hopeful thinks plans to allow Norwegian Airlines International operate the route would be bad for employees on both sides of the Atlantic.

A PLANNED CORK to Boston flight route is bad news for both Europe and America, potential US presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has said.

The Vermont senator has asked the US Department of Transportation to not grant permission to Norwegian Airlines International (NAI), a subsidiary of Norwegian Air Shuttle, to fly to the US from European cities such as Cork.

Sanders, who is currently trailing Hillary Clinton for the Democratic party’s presidential nomination, said NAI is attempting to “undermine international labour laws by outsourcing cheap labour from Thailand and other low-wage countries”.

“Granting such a permit would be a direct violation of the strong labour provisions included in the US/EU Open Skies Agreement. Moreover, it would set a dangerous precedent that threatens the jobs of hundreds of thousands of flight attendants, mechanics, pilots and other airline workers in our country and in Europe,” Sanders said in a statement.

The department is currently accepting submissions about the application.

‘Flag of convenience’

In a document released last month, the department noted that parties objecting to the NAI bid believe the company “is seeking to use Ireland as a flag of convenience” and has “established itself in Ireland to evade the social laws of Norway in order to lower the wages and working conditions of its air crew”.

It noted that opponents to the deal, such as Sanders, have also argued that NAI would hire its pilots and cabin crew from a third-party company based in Singapore. As a result, employees may have to resolve any employment matters with the third-party company, rather than directly with the air carrier.

On the other hand, the document states that NAI, which has a Dublin headquarters, and its supporters have said the company has satisfied European and American legal requirements and is qualified to operate as a foreign carrier.

“NAI claims that it offers competitive wages, and points to the significant number of US citizens that are seeking employment with the carrier as evidence of a quality work environment,” the document adds.

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Tourism in Cork

Niall MacCarthy, managing director at Cork Airport, said Cork has “so much to gain from these flights” in terms of tourism and investment, and asked the public to support the bid.

“We have been working closely with business and tourism stakeholders, especially Cork Chamber of Commerce, to help drive support for the new route and if we all work together on this, we could see these flights become a reality before very long,” he said.

Fine Gael Ireland South MEP Deirdre Clune refuted the claim NAI is using Ireland as “a flag of convenience”, saying: “Mr Sanders, certain unions and a number of legacy airline carriers are attempting to block new competition on the transatlantic routes.”

She said the route, if granted, “would have an enormously positive impact on southern Ireland”.

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Órla Ryan

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