NZALPA has been an active member and supporter of the International Federation of Air Line Pilots’ Associations (IFALPA) since the inception of the global body in the late 1940s. The mission of IFALPA is to promote the highest level of aviation safety worldwide and to be the global advocate of the piloting profession; providing representation, services and support to both members and the aviation industry.
Dean Fotti, NZALPA’s IFALPA Director says this function is one of the most critical for the global pilot fraternity.
“The IFALPA position is that, given that the airline industry is rapidly changing with globalisation, bilateral agreements, pilot supply, and other issues, IFALPA’s Member Associations must also look beyond their borders for consensus, counsel, and support from the larger pilot community.
“One of the mechanisms for this is through Mutual Assistance requests,” Fotti said.
A recent example is in Colombia. Pilots who are members of IFALPA-affiliated ACDAC employed by national carrier Avianca Airlines have been on strike since September 20 (at the time of writing). They were requesting mutual assistance from both IFALPA and the Association of South American Pilots (ASAP).
Negotiations between the union and Avianca management had broken down and ACDAC reported that “rather than engage in good faith bargaining, they elected to challenge the legality of the strike in the courts.
“Concurrently, the company is seeking foreign pilots to do their flying.”
IFALPA heeded their call and requested that no other pilots applied for employment nor accept assignments with Avianca to perform struck work (replacing those pilots who are striking).
There was also a request for contribution to assist with the economic needs of ACDAC striking pilots and, as per IFALPA policy, this was referred to the November Executive Board.
A communique has also been received from the Air Line Pilots’ Association of Mauritius (MALPA), requesting Mutual Assistance on behalf of Air Mauritius pilots.
IFALPA was informed that Air Mauritius Airlines was breaching the Collective Labour Agreement (CLA) by offering non-CLA compliant contracts to the new pilots joining Air Mauritius. These non-CLA compliant contracts include a 25% salary cut and pilots were not being offered the retention fund.
This change in contract conditions was also being applied retrospectively to all pilots that had joined the airline since the beginning of 2016 and MALPA was extremely concerned that this change in contracts will soon be applied to the rest of the airline’s pilots.
There was no clear intention from the airline management to start negotiations for a new Collective Labour Agreement.
In addition, those who were members of MALPA, the union reported, were being certified ‘unfit for duty’ and were being ”constantly harassed by the airline management and requested to undergo a second examination by a company doctor.”
As a consequence, MALPA’s Executive Board were, at the time of writing, having to carefully consider their options for industrial options.
Commenting on both these serious industrial disputes, Fotti described this as “indicative of how airlines will deal with the pilot supply issue – by unilaterally making labour cheaper.”
In Asia, meanwhile, the Hong Kong Aircrew Officers Association (HKAOA), represented by the Hong Kong Airline Pilots Association (HKALPA) in Hong Kong and New Zealand, requested that IFALPA extend the Mutual Assistance until the end of 2017 in regard to their dispute with Cathay Pacific Airways.
In another example of how the Mutual Assistance protocol works, this was in regard to “contract compliance and the ban on members entering or upgrading in the Training Department.”
“The issues that are now being discussed in negotiations include local pilot allowance and rostering (scheduling). The pilots’ pay agreement expired in May and the housing agreement for expat members is now subject to termination with three months’ notice,” an IFALPA report said.
Interestingly, on the unions’ suggestion, Cathay Pacific management had agreed to engage in High Performance Engagement (HPE) “which is traditionally used to affect a culture change in labour relations. In this case, however, it will be used in a non-traditional way for negotiations.”
Although actively involved in IFALPA activities, Dean Fotti said that “Unfortunately, the constraints placed on us by our employment legislation and our employment agreements means there is often little, if anything, we can do to provide the assistance requested.
“Still, our awareness of what our overseas colleagues are enduring provided by these requests is important, and even a simple letter of support from NZALPA written on your behalf provides a real lift to those pilots fighting to guard pilot working conditions worldwide.”
Update: at time of publication the strike by 730 Avianca pilots had just ended after 51 days, even though a final verdict on the legality of the action has yet to be handed-down by a judge of the Supreme Court. Avianca claimed the strike was illegal when more than half its pilots walked-off the job, paralysing the company’s normal operations.