European transport union leaders claim to have secured a commitment from European commissioners to deliver “a social package” for airline workers.

The European Transport Workers’ Federation (ETF) and European Cockpit Association (ECA), representing pilots, complain EU airlines are using “bogus self-employment” and “artificial agency” status to bypass employment laws in member states.

Leaders of the ETF and ECA met transport commissioner Violeta Bulc and employment commissioner Marianne Thyssen on Thursday.

Following the meeting ETF civil aviation president Oliver Richardson said: “We see the EU wet-leasing rules being used to break lawful industrial action while putting safety and security at stake.”

“The EU must stop practices that favour freedom of provision of services over workers’ rights.”

Richardson called for an end to “social dumping” involving “third-country crew members” working on EU-registered aircraft.

He said: “We need a clear definition of principal place of business in order to avoid ‘letterbox’ companies, ensuring proper application of labour law.”

ECA president Dirk Polloczek said: “For too long, aviation workers have been treated differently to other workers, with aviation’s often separate regime used to enable bogus self-employment, artificial temporary agency worker status or even ‘pay to fly’.”

Ryanair has been accused of flouting state labour laws, for example by employing workers based on Irish contracts in France. Norwegian Air has been accused of doing similar, using Thai-based crew on flights to and from Europe.

British Airways has also drawn criticism for leasing Qatar Airways aircraft and crew to operate its flights to and from London Gatwick during the ongoing strikes by BA cabin crew based at the airport.

The unions called for “strong and binding rules” to protect European aviation workers and a “level playing field in European aviation”.

There was no confirmation from the commissioners of any commitment regarding the social package for aviation, due in 2018.