The body representing 40,000 pilots in Europe has called for a comprehensive recovery plan for the aviation sector to avoid long-term harm to thousands of workers and their families. 

The call comes as transport ministers from eight EU member states have signed a joint declaration calling for "social responsibIlity" in aviation in areas including precarious work, social security and tax law. 

The Irish Airline Pilots Association (IALPA) called on the Government to sign up to the declaration and to put in place the appropriate laws to underpin best international practice.

The declaration flags the need for "an ambitious Covid-19 aviation recovery guided by safety, fair and undistorted competition and social rights for employees." 

It is signed by transport ministers representing Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Portugal, who have joined forces in a bid to shift policy at both European Commission and member state level.

The declaration states that the Covid-19 crisis has exposed some of the deep and longstanding  "dysfunctionalities" in the aviation industry, which it blames on poor regulatory efforts.

It cites issues including a "staggering" level of legal uncertainty on applicable labour, social security and tax law. 

It also refers to an uneven playing field within the European single aviation market, along with variable levels of protection for workers, and inadequate enforcement of rules at national level. 

The transport ministers say that all these pre-existing conditions which deserve "priority attention" risk impeding the industry's recovery post-pandemic. 

The European Cockpit Association, which represents approximately 40,000 pilots across Europe, described the aviation sector as being in a "state of high alert" due to the resurgence of the virus. 

ECA President Otjan de Bruijn said that for the industry to thrive, it would require not only for the pandemic to be over, but a long-term vision to correct pre-existing "social flaws".

"Without dedicated efforts to support it now and restore it in a socially responsible manner in the near future, we are facing lasting harm to hundreds of thousands of aviation workers and their families," Mr de Bruijn warned. 

The eight transport ministers have called for better coordination between European and national transport and social authorities, along with more legal certainty and effective enforcement of European and national rules.  

They also highlight the need to address the social dimension of aviation, with the upcoming revision of the EU Air Services Regulation.  

"Airlines and their employees can only compete on the market and recover from the crisis if this market is free from social engineering, regulatory forum shopping, and precarious atypical employment set-ups", said ECA Secretary General Philip von Schöppenthau.

IALPA President Captain Evan Cullen said that for many years, the Irish Government had facilitated the use of bogus self-employment and the exploitation of aviation workers, adding that this had greatly damaged Ireland's reputation.