TWU Seeks to Curb Outsourcing of Safety Critical Work

Photo Credit: Brendan Moriarty

JetBlue crewmembers and their passengers are safest in the air when flying commercial aircraft that have been maintained and repaired in the United States – not at some low-wage facility in South or Central America.

That’s why the Transport Workers Union is seeking federal legislation to reduce outsourcing by JetBlue, American, and other airlines headquartered in the United States.

“Foreign maintenance facilities do shoddy work all of the time,” TWU Senior Director of Government Affairs Zack Tatz said. “Their workers are not subject to the same regulations, standards or scrutiny that aircraft mechanics here in America work under.”

One possible result of sub-standard mechanical work: toxic exhaust fumes seeping into aircraft cabins, Tatz said.

The TWU is working with members of Congress to draft legislation that would close five loopholes. Because of these loopholes, foreign repair and maintenance facilities, and their employees, do not have to meet these requirements:

  • Drug and alcohol testing of mechanics and technicians
  • Security and criminal background checks for employees
  • FAA certification standards for mechanics and technicians
  • Risk-based safety and security evaluations of facilities
  • Unannounced FAA inspections.

Two other unions have joined the TWU in seeking this legislation: the International Association of Machinists and the Professional Aviation Safety Specialists.

“Right now, there are two safety standards: domestic and foreign,” Tatz said. “This would raise the lower standards at foreign facilities and provide the level of safety we expect in our airspace.”

Such legislation also would raise the cost of outsourcing aircraft mechanical work and encourage companies to keep jobs in the United States.

Nearly 50 percent of maintenance work done by air carriers registered in the United States, including the major airlines, is conducted outside the United States, according to a report that former Homeland Security Department Secretary Tom Ridge compiled last year at the request of the TWU.

Foreign repair stations present risks that domestic ones do not,” the report stated. “These risks are due in part to how laws and regulations are applied. We concluded that the safety and security concerns of commercial aviation are better addressed when the repair and maintenance is done in the United States.”