24Hr emergency line +44 (0)20 8476 4099
Join Balpa

The benefits of a pilot community #HeartUnions

by Captain Paul Naylor Executive Vice President, BALPA

Being part of BALPA is about being part of a community. We are a family of pilots working together to protect the profession and ensure every flight is a safe flight. This relationship gives pilots a voice and helps us focus our efforts, so we can make an impact on aviation and beyond.

This week is #HeartUnions week, it’s a week of activity organised by the TUC throughout England and Wales that highlights the good work that unions do every day to offer everyone a voice at work. It’s a chance for me to look at what BALPA is doing for pilots and share how standing shoulder to shoulder with other pilots in BALPA is so important. It is also a chance to explain what I love about BALPA.

Some of the work our union does you’ll be aware of. Our campaigns on safety, particularly drones and lasers have been extremely high profile in recent months with the Government agreeing to take action and make new laws to tackle both issues. This is the result of long-running BALPA campaigns. We have invested in research on the topics, gauged expert opinion, ran education campaigns for the public and lobbied parliament and regulators along the way. And our work on lasers and drones is continuing as we are advising the Government on how to implement the changes.

The industrial work of BALPA has also been in the headlines in the last year. Years of a turbulent relationship with Ryanair came to a head when pilots at the company stood together and called for change. BALPA was there to support the pilots and offer expert guidance on negotiation.

The discussions in getting to a recognition agreement with Ryanair were tough and some thought it would never happen. However, through negotiation and with compromise, on both sides, we found a way forward. BALPA now has sole collective bargaining rights for Ryanair’s employed pilots in the UK.

Last summer we also supported our Thomas Cook members through the first strike of UK pilots in 40 years. As those pilots stood firm, we as a pilot community showed our solidarity with messages of support to those on the frontline, from far and wide.

And even in the worst of times for our pilots, BALPA has always been there to offer support. When redundancy hit helicopter pilots in the North Sea and the demise of Monarch also left pilots out of work, BALPA was there with a programme of action and support. We offered legal and industrial advice, assistance in understanding the redundancy process and careers advice to help pilots get back in the air. And as we progress through 2018 many of those pilots have found new jobs, and we will continue to support them through their new careers.

Just had great news that #Monarch pilots are beginning to be given jobs with other airlines. Thanks mostly to @BALPApilots. Outstanding.

— BALPA Executive President (@BALPAExecPres) October 7, 2017

But there is more to this pilot community than just these headline-grabbing events and while some of BALPA’s work to represent pilots, uphold the profession, protect pilot rights and to keep passengers and crew safe is less high profile, it is nonetheless vital.

Every full member of BALPA has access to our legal help. BALPA deals with 80 to 90 legal referrals to lawyers for individual and collective advice and half as many again which are advised upon by the department every year. In the last year, BALPA spent more than £700,000 in legal fees defending the rights of individual members, taking on airlines where we’ve seen bad practice, and in some cases bringing about change that affects workers across the UK.

These legal battles not only impact individuals but in many cases, can benefit the whole pilot community and in one case even set precedents for all employees in the country, giving power to all unions across the UK.

Every year pilots turn to BALPA in emergencies. We answer calls to our emergency helpline and ensure pilots get the help they need. And there is the legal helpline for non-work-related matters too. Every year we transfer about 100 queries to legal advisors covering family matters, wills and consumer related issues.

Our legal expertise and industrial strength are not the only weapons in BALPA’s armoury. Our team of flight safety experts and pilot technical groups continue to work hard to ensure our skies are safe. Fatigue remains a huge priority for pilots. We continue to examine and challenge rosters that are likely to cause fatigue. You can find out more about the work of our team of fatigue fighters here


So, what is BALPA to me? BALPA is me. BALPA is the pilots that make up its membership. It is about standing together when times are tough, supporting each other and fighting our corner. BALPA is all about the pilots it represents, and that’s why we should all love our union.  #HeartUnions. #♥unions