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British pilots urge EU transport ministers to stop the abuse of atypical aircrew employment

The British Airline Pilots’ Association welcomes the upcoming EU Transport Ministers’ debate on the “Social dimension of the aviation industry” (08/06/2017) which will look at tackling problematic employment practices.

But The British Airline Pilots’ Association says discussion alone is not enough. After years of debate and monitoring, it is time to come up with concrete European and national commitments to stop airlines abusing ‘atypical employment’, Pay-to-Fly schemes or (bogus) self-employment of aircrew.

A recent study from the TUC into international trends in insecure work found casual, zero-hours and agency contracts are on the rise in most European 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.  Of particular concern is 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:

“The concern we have is that as airlines look to reduce costs and off load risk we are seeing a reduction in pilots’ job security and employment rights and that can have a further effect on safety.

“Airlines nowadays can have a very significant number of pilots working for them through agencies. They do not always guarantee the agency any work and the agency does not guarantee the pilot any work.

“This leads to much greater uncertainty for the pilots and has a knock on effect for safety as pilots may feel pressured 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. They start their careers with a large debt and in some airlines the starting wage can be as little as £20,000. So the first years in the profession can be very tough financially.

“We are calling for the EU and its Member States to send a loud and clear message to airlines that these working practices are not acceptable; and to ensure that concrete actions both at European and national level will be taken to stop this abuse of atypical employment.”