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Deregulation in European labour markets has led to rise in insecure work in aviation

The British Airline Pilots’ Association says that insecure working arrangements in aviation are on the rise in an effort to cut costs in airlines.

A study from the TUC into international trends in insecure work shows an increase in casual, zero-hours and agency contracts is on the rise in most European countries.

In recent years, the UK has provided incentives for a variety of atypical working relationships such as zero-hours contracts, temporary agency working and bogus self-employment and has therefore seen one of the largest increases in insecure work since the financial crisis than many other countries. These findings are reflected in the pilot community.

Whereas historically agency workers were used to manage seasonal variations in the number of flights, the use of agency workers has grown, in some cases completely to the exclusion of directly employing pilots.

While there are some advantages to these sorts of contracts, BALPA is concerned that the increase of casual contracts in safety critical roles is cause for concern, especially where financial uncertainty might lead to greater risk, especially those newly-trained pilots considering training debts of up to £100,000.

BALPA General Secretary, Brian Strutton, said:

“As airlines seek to off-load risk and reduce costs, coupled with the growth of low-cost airlines, this has led to significant changes within the airline industry, and as a result there has been a loss, in some cases, of the mutuality of trust between airlines and their pilots together with diminution of pilots’ job security and employment rights.

“The airlines do not guarantee the agency any work and the agency does not guarantee the pilot any work.

“These airlines have predominantly used agency arrangements for a number of years with the result that there are a very significant number of pilots flying for these airlines who are not directly employed by the airlines.

“This leads to much greater uncertainty for the pilots and we believe this puts pressure on those pilots to fly when they probably shouldn’t, such as when they’re unwell or fatigued.

“This is especially concerning when you consider most pilots nowadays fund their own training, which can cost up to £100,000, and in some airlines the starting wage can be as little as £20,000.

“Although the perception is that pilots are very well compensated, and indeed salaries usually rise significantly with experience and seniority, with a low starting salary and high loan repayments the first years in the profession can be very tough financially.”