Nordic pilots united

Pilot associations’ leaders from Nordic countries agreed to strengthen their co-operation and to stand united in their determination to defend the rights of pilots as employees.

Not a day goes by without reading about cost-cutting measures in aviation due to the economic crisis. Add the growing competition and you have the picture of European aviation in the last few years. All these factors cannot be disregarded when it comes to either management decisions or employment practices.

On 20-21 March ECA joined Nordic Pilots’ Associations for a two-day symposium in Helsinki looking into the threats and opportunities for the pilot’s profession. Representatives of the North-European region discussed how to improve co-operation and information exchange between the unions In order to better counter one of the main threats to sustainable employment: the casualization of labour. 

Despite the good reputation of North European countries, the region has not been spared from tensions when it comes to employment practices for pilots. Such was the case of the Skyways Express airline which fired and rehired its employees through a contractor after their business unit was sold – for a symbolic price – to one of the groups' top executives in 2009. In 2012, negotiations on a restructuring plan proposed at very short notice by the SAS Group turned into an arm-twisting exercise to dilute trade union rights rather than safeguard the company’s economic survival. More recently, a low cost company in Norway has also disclosed plans to use atypical forms of employment, including contracts for crews with virtual bases in Bangkok. 

Against this background, Nordic pilots agreed that outsourcing and subcontracting are undermining their dedication and long-term commitment. Without these the aviation safety culture that has been developed over the long history of flying might also be under threat.