Uplink ALPA - The Voice of Aviation

The New Zealand Air Line Pilots' Association Newsletter. As of April 2020 Uplink ALPA is a 6-monthly publication.

Reflections on 2021 – Industrial Director, Andrew McKeen

Industrial Director, Andrew McKeen

As another busy year, dominated by all things COVID, draws to an end the only thing I can say with certainty is that change has been constant.

While aviation is going through its most difficult times, many airlines around the world have seen the COVID crisis as an opportunity to permanently lower terms and conditions or significantly reduce pay for crew. In Europe particularly, a new wave of anti-worker practices and atypical employment schemes seems to be emerging. There never seems to be a shortage of unscrupulous airline employers.

Everyone likes to think they have what it takes to survive adversity and tough times like we are experiencing, but some definitely do better than others. Some will fold while some are made stronger. I believe the people that don’t waste time complaining and don’t dwell on the past or what’s been lost tend to be the ones that are more successful; energies are focused on options, rather than black and white, leveraging the best possible long-term strategy with clear intentions to survive.

I think it rings particularly true for what has played over the last year and it is, once again, satisfying to see each NZALPA employee representative group being organised and industrially active with the many and varied needs of their respective employer, clearly focused on what lies ahead with a view of recovery.

Our industry is built upon enabling social ties between friends, family and business, and so the impact to our members has been particularly sudden and severe. A significant number of our members still have no income derived from an aviation source, but there is just a small glimmer of light pointing toward some positive industry movement in 2022.

From hand sanitisers in hotel lobbies to cabin crew in masks, localised (and not so localised) lockdowns to contact tracing apps, COVID-19 has transformed the world. A lot of scientists now seem to agree that COVID-19 will become endemic and that society will need to learn to live with the virus. To that end, we are seeing the implementation of various protocols around the globe and with each re-opening announcement seems to come similar, but different, ‘rules’.

At times it seems like a mess of confusing requirements, with things changing every day or every week. Vaccination features in almost all of the recent announcements and we’ve seen vaccine mandates introduced as a way of boosting overall vaccination rates. My lasting impression of working through the implementation of these vaccine mandates with our members is going to be that the issue is hugely polarizing and one where it is, apparently, difficult to find compromise.

Having spent a significant portion of the last 18 months at my computer, I am definitely of the opinion that video calls can never deliver the value of meeting in person. This has posed challenges in a period when engagement with our employers and Government has been more important than ever.

NZALPA is a standing member of a cross functional aviation forum that meets regularly with aviation sector representatives and Government agencies (including Ministry of Transport, Customs, AvSEC, Ministry for Primary Industries, Treasury, Ministry for Business Innovation and Employment, Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Health), to discuss the ongoing response and recovery work for COVID-19.

We have also continued our quarterly meeting cycle with the Ministry of Transport, CAA and Minister Wood. It is somewhat convenient for NZALPA that Minister Wood has the portfolio for Transport as well as for Workplace Relations and Safety, as it makes him a one-stop-shop for a lot of our issues.

Through this engagement we achieve effective advocacy for our members on policy development
and decision making. Maintaining these relationships is important
so that NZALPA has an avenue for direct input to the relevant areas of Government. Lately our messages have been consistent in one core area – we must find efficient ways to live with the virus and we must not let complication bog down a recovery.

Finally, as I always must, I want to acknowledge all the staff at NZALPA who continue to work hard to meet the industrial needs of the Association. NZALPA could not function without teamwork. I would like to thank all the people whose support I have received during the year and I look forward to working with everyone again next year in what I hope will be a year of positive change.

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