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ADC 2016 asks the key questions on pilot burnout and Brexit

by Brian Strutton BALPA General Secretary

Last week saw us hold our 2016 Annual Delegates Conference (ADC), which invites reps and BALPA staff to come together to discuss BALPA’s key priorities for the coming year. It was my first as your new General Secretary. This year discussions focussed on the hot topic of burnout and the long-term effects of fatigue, as well as the implications and opportunities of Brexit.

Conference, as is tradition, was kicked off with a speech from our Chairman Brendan O’Neal. He took to the stage to welcome reps and give some insight into the past year, as well as his thoughts on the year ahead. Brendan’s address recognised the year of change for BALPA, our members, and the rest of the UK.  From the General Secretary perspective, we move into a new change of management within BALPA and in my first few months I was immediately thrown into some intense uncertainty for our membership: what effect will Brexit have on aviation? How can we get the best possible outcome for our members in easyJet and the North Sea, both of which were facing extremely challenging times? Can we help Monarch through its regulatory challenges?


The key topics

We dedicated a day to each of our key topics, the first looking at burnout. Our Focus on Fatigue project has borne the question of not just how dangerous fatigue can be in the short-term, but what exactly will the effect be of these fatiguing rosters over time. The stress that this can put on pilots’ mental and physical health cannot be ignored. We invited guest speaker Vanessa King to tell us about her work on research into wellbeing at work. A trained psychologist and Board member for Action for Happiness, a programme that seeks to encourage employers to implement employee wellbeing practices into their strategies, she talked about the benefits of happy and healthy employees. Our reps were then encouraged to discuss the pilot lifestyle, how we might avoid burnout and how we might improve work-life balance.

Day two looked at Brexit. No one yet knows exactly how Brexit will effect change in the UK, not least of all the aviation industry. Our members have been asking us, what will this mean for EASA regulation? How will this help or hinder the airlines? What about trans-national airlines, how will they change the way they operate? And many more uncertainties ahead. The honest answer is, like so many others, we just don’t know yet. The day gave our reps a chance to tell us what issues they would like to get to the heart of, what the potential worst outcomes could be, but also what opportunities this may bring. Our speakers Andrew Haines of the CAA, Andrew Lobbenberg of HSBC and Jane McNeill QC brought insight into the regulatory, economic and legal implications of Brexit for aviation and pilots.


A thank-you for our reps

We concluded proceedings with an industry dinner, inviting key players from across the aviation industry, including airlines, MPs and the Minister of Aviation, Lord Ahmad. Not only is the evening a chance for our reps and staff to make contacts and engage in discussion across CCs, airlines and the industry, it is also a fantastic opportunity for us to thank our hard-working reps. This year our awards recognised three categories: nextGen Member of the Year, Rep of the Year and Lifetime Achievement. Our nexGen award went to Dale Mudie for all his work on helping make the programme a success. Rep of the Year was awarded to Si Williams for his fantastic work as an easyJet base rep, CC rep and chief editor of The Log. Finally, we recognised the NEC’s Dave Boys with a Lifetime Achievement Award. Dave has given BALPA 28 years of service and as he steps down from the NEC we wanted to ensure we let him know just how much he has given to BALPA and our members over the years and how much we appreciate it.


What happens now?

BALPA and the NEC’s next challenge is to take away all we learnt at conference and formulate BALPA’s next steps. Burnout and Brexit are not distant issues and require our immediate attention, and we’ll be working to identify the areas we need to focus on. We will keep you updated through our various communications as we know more. As we move into an uncertain 2017 I can assure you that, as always, BALPA’s  focus will remain firmly on pilot reward and wellbeing; and aviation safety.