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Being BALPA in lockdown

by Paul Naylor Executive President

Coronavirus has led to global changes in many aspects of our lives, but one thing that remains solid is BALPA. The pilots’ union is more than just a faceless organisation. It is a community of pilots working for pilots and I am proud of the way it has risen to the challenge coronavirus has posed. BALPA is the voice of pilots and despite all the difficulties the pilot community is facing, that voice remains strong.

Coronavirus has impacted the pilot community in a way that many other communities will not have felt. Many of us are grounded and uncertain of what the future holds. Others, working in search and rescue, cargo or flying repatriation flights continue to work and are adapting to new challenges and ways of keeping safe in the air.

Through all this BALPA is here for its members.

Our staff have adapted to working remotely to keep the cogs of BALPA turning. Our staff and reps are utilising new technology to continue to rally to support members and to challenge airlines and the government to make decisions which will keep the industry strong for when this crisis abates.

We continue to negotiate with airlines to ensure appropriate measures are in place to protect pilots and their jobs. We have been using the media to highlight the situation and push for greater government support and ensure aviation remains at the heart of the UK economy.

And we are here to support individual members who are finding the situation trying. Our membership and careers service has been responding to thousands of calls from members and offering advice and support. And our peer support programme continues to help pilots offer assistance to each other through this tough time.

I, like our multitude of other Reps have been busier than ever during the lockdown period. Meetings and teleconferences often drag well into the evenings and have been almost normalised across our network. We also have a number of our community volunteering for NHS work and other related activities – truly selfless acts in extraordinary circumstances.

The majority are furloughed but continuing to conduct union business where the stakes have never been higher. The first phase of negotiations is largely complete but soon we’ll see the next phase as airlines begin to rationalise and consider scaling back their future operations, so, no end is in sight for the negotiators.

Our Health and Safety Reps are just as busy in helping determine how we safely return to scheduled operations again.

The resilience of our Company Council teams is commendable. It can be easy to forget that they are foremost line pilots who have the same concerns and issues as their membership. Their stress levels have risen accordingly but they haven’t detracted from the tasks in hand. Our Head Office teams have been beside them all the way (albeit virtually).

The National Officer teams have been with our company councils on the front line while our Flight Safety teams have been assisting on the regulatory side in matters such as licensing recency, H&S and Scheduling. We’ve also be keeping Government busy on all fronts as you’d expect.

New ways of working

Of course, the nature of the current situation has led most of us to up-skill on the I.T front too. The last 5 weeks have seen us using a variety of platforms to conduct virtual meetings. No doubt these will integrate into our normal operations going forward too.  Never a dull moment in BALPA circles!

A strong community

So, while BALPA’s HQ building may be quiet right now, its staff and reps continue to be busy working remotely for you and fighting for the aviation industry. We may be apart but we are still a community and even in this coronavirus crisis, that community is strong.