We’re up to month nine of the Labour-led Coalition Government and I thought it was time to reflect on NZALPA’s experience so far.
We began the term with a hiss and a roar, and had a very productive meeting with the Minister of Transport responsible for Aviation, Hon Phil Twyford. We discussed our call for licensing and better regulation of RPAS, or drone technology. This wasn’t a new issue for NZALPA but the travelling public and the media are increasingly concerned following a number of drone near misses of both passenger and emergency aircraft. The Minister shared our concerns and asked us to work with CAA and other industry players – this work continues.
Similarly, we brought the Government’s attention to the training and loan issue faced by aviation students and a lack of a ‘level playing field’ regarding comparative student debt. Again, due to NZALPA and wider industry concerns around pilot supply issues, we received a sympathetic ear. We’ve since begun working with the national airline and leading training institutions on overcoming these challenges, but we’re hopeful this will get a further nudge with a government focused on the future of work and training needs.
Meanwhile, on the industrial relations front, NZALPA’s Air Traffic Controller (ATC) membership delivered high profile submissions on changes to the Employment Relations Act, pointing out the inequity between ATCs and every other worker in New Zealand regarding breaks and rest periods. We also submitted on the continued unfairness of 90 day "fire at will" contracts for smaller companies - many who happen to also be fixed wing and helicopter operations. We await the Select Committee’s report back to Parliament with interest.
However, with another two laser strikes on commercial aircraft recently, there continues to be frustration over a lack of official action following our call for the total prohibition of these devices. NZALPA also has the backing of the Police Association in our campaign, particularly with the difficulty of tracking down the perpetrators. Originally we thought heavier fines and prison sentences for those who shine lasers on aircraft, endangering all on board, but the frequency and potential consequences of their use led us to call for a complete ban, sooner rather than later.
Members were disappointed also with a loss of momentum when the Minister stood down from his aviation role due to using a mobile phone on a plane when the doors had closed. While opinions differ on the severity of this action, there is no doubt it was a bad look and warranted a CAA investigation. Curiously we are yet to hear the outcome of the investigation, other than that the Minister has been fined. During this period it was unfortunate we were unable to have a Minister to address and greet delegates at this year’s NZALPA Annual Conference, as promised.
Overall it’s been a mixed bag of stops and starts but we appreciate this is often the hallmark of new governments, whatever the stripe, particularly when they’ve been in opposition for almost a decade and have brought together a number of views into one coalition. We’re not always going to agree and we know real change cannot happen overnight, but we will continue to try and work collaboratively together at both the ministerial, parliamentary and regulatory levels of the Government for the overall interests of our members.