We recently were told by the European Commission that “more data is needed”. More data on problematic industry practices that make use of ‘social engineering’ to circumvent national labour, tax and social security laws, and which distort competition on the European aviation market.
Such data is now available – contained in the comprehensive study report from the Ghent University on ‘Atypical Employment in Aviation’. But is seems many don’t like what they see in this report – albeit for different reasons.
For sure, we as pilots do not like the study outcome because we see that dramatic (and possibly detrimental) changes are taking place in our profession! We see that these so-called ‘atypical forms’ of employment will soon be rather typical for the aviation industry. Especially our young colleagues experience a completely different start of their flying career. “Pay-to-fly” schemes, bogus self-employment and zero-hour contracts are today's sad reality.
Mostly, the rapidly expanding low cost airlines are relying on these types of relation with their ‘non’ employees. One could get the impression that this is necessary to run a successful low cost airline. But no, this is not the case, as we see with highly profitable companies like Southwest or easyJet – whose pilots are mostly directly employed. Staff exploitation is not a condition for success!
The time, when the relation between a pilot and his/her airline was meant to be a direct one – and maybe even a lifelong one – belongs to the past.
For many of our colleagues, frequent changes of employer (or should I say “client”?) is the only way to improve their working conditions or to have any kind of perspective on a stable home base and career. Because most of the representatives of those companies that engage in such atypical employment practices have no interest in investing into their safety professionals.
Pilots have to assume their common responsibility for their profession. We must make sure that young people can find their way into the ‘world of flying’ without being exploited and accruing disproportionate debts. We also have to make sure that we draw the right conclusions from this Ghent University report to stop this precarious trend. And the European Commission needs to accept the facts as well. Continuing to call for even more data won't let these facts disappear.
Appetite for facts?
by Dirk Polloczek