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Better social protection for airline staff and cross-border workers

Air hostesses, stewards and pilots would be subject to the social security rules of the country in which they usually start and end their work, under new EU rules on the coordination of social security systems, adopted on Wednesday. The regulation also clarifies access to unemployment benefits for cross-border self-employed workers.

"The new rules will improve the functioning of the single market by enhancing the social protection of a high number of mobile workers in the EU such as aircrew members and cross-border self-employed workers," stated Milan Cabrnoch (ECR, CZ), who is steering the legislation through Parliament. The legislative resolution was adopted with 540 votes in favour, 19 against and 30 abstentions.

The new regulation introduces the concept of a "home base" for granting aircrew members access to social security rights. The home base is where pilots and cabin crews "normally start and end a duty period" and "where the operator is not responsible for the accommodation of the crew member".

Legal loopholes in European legislation have in the past allowed a few low-cost airlines to apply social security systems that are deemed to be the least onerous, irrespective of the crew member's home base.

Unemployment benefits for the self-employed
The regulation also clarifies the situation of cross-border self-employed workers (one who returns to his or her home country at least once a week), as regards access to unemployment benefits.

If a self-employed person who works in another EU country, contributes to its unemployment schemes, and then returns to his or her home country which does not have unemployment insurance for the self-employed, then the country where he or she last worked should pay the unemployment benefits, says the text.

After more than a year's discussion, the Council agreed on 1 December 2011, by a qualified majority, on a general approach to updating regulations 883/2004 and 987/2009. Parliament included the Council's position in its amendments, with a view to getting a first reading agreement.

Co-decision, 1st reading