‘Casualisation’ and the use of contract labour is a growing issue in many industries, regrettably aviation is no exception. Driven by short term cost-benefits to the employer and a seemingly endless supply of young pilots willing to pay out £120,000 to “live the dream”, the practice is most prevalent in low-cost operations.

We have been campaigning on this issue for many months and have had success in formulating a New Entrant Contract that delivers significant improvements to those entering the profession in easyJet. Trainees will now have their time under contract with an agency capped at 12 months as a probationary period after which they will become an easyJet employed second officer.

However, as we know the issue runs wider than easyJet and it remains one of BALPA’s key priorities to drive casualisation out of the whole industry and make it a profession that people not only aspire to, but one that treats them as professionals.

BALPA is supporting this work with a number of activities.

The supply strategy
Our message to aspiring pilots is blunt – ‘think again!’ We are promoting this message to them, and their parents wherever we can, including career fairs.

The regulatory strategy
The Colgan incident should have been a wake up call but, disappointingly, our own UK regulator has let the practice develop – despite its own rules (CAP 789 paragraph 2.2 and 3.1.3). With fellow pilots in the ECA we are pressing EASA and will be asking for support to lobby ICAO.

Tax and social security rules
Many pilots have been compelled to set up their own limited company to gain work with some airlines. We believe there a number of questions around this and will be asking HMRC for guidance to be made publicly available. Other jurisdictions are clamping down and we are in discussion with the Westminster opposition party to raise our concern over bogus self employment.     

The media strategy
We have raised the issue with the media and, although it is hard graft to secure their interest, we continue to place stories with interested media. We also aim to cause embarrassment to the Boards of these companies and recently lobbied the EZY shareholder AGM to expose the practice in what is now a FTSE 100 company.

The legal strategy
Our legal advice indicates that the Agency Workers’ Directive is being breached. Alongside the above we have begun a strategy to secure justice. As we found in the holiday pay case the wheels of justice turn slowly, but are remorseless. Employers are warned.

The TUC strategy
The growth of such contracts seems remorseless with over 1.5 million workers estimated to be employed through agencies. The TUC are lobbying hard on this and BALPA is playing a full role.

The organising strategy
It is not easy being a casual employee. There is a real fear that if you object your card will be marked – with the agency and with prospective employers. We do not want to expose these young pilots to such risk; but quietly, and below the radar, we are building a strong network of contractors.

The negotiating strategy
This is our bread and butter and we have found ways in some airlines of delivering permanent contracts whilst giving employers flexibility. These examples feature in a major research publication produced in conjunction with LRD - click here to download the document

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