10 Years of the “new” ECA

Here’s a fact that not many of you know – 10 years ago, in June 2005, ECA has gone through one of the most significant restructurings of the organisation. A hotel in Copenhagen hosted the meeting among European pilots who discussed and agreed upon a new vision for the European Cockpit Association. How to make it better equipped for the many tasks and challenges that were waiting for them and to ensure the organisation has the right tools and sufficient resources for efficient pilot representation at European level? Martin Chalk, who is today’s president of IFALPA, was elected as ECA President to lead ECA’s new structure. Henk de Vries was his Vice-President and together they formed a team that successfully set ECA on a path of becoming a well-respected, reliable and influential voice of pilots in Europe.

What has changed since then?

Well, some of the problems we had ten years ago are still around. The liberalisation and the advent of a new type of companies no longer confined to national borders still poses challenges when it comes to collective bargaining and pilot representation. Some problems, such as social dumping or the threat of unfair competition through heavily subsidised state owned airlines, have even got worse. The Euro crisis has left its traces in the aviation industry and some more airlines have disappeared. Others are struggling for survival and thus bringing their employees into tense situations. Long disputes are fought with all means between airline management and pilot unions.

But ECA’s restructuring 10 years ago made us internally coherent, stronger and better equipped to face these challenges. Externally, this translated in a better position on the European level: we managed to become a reliable partner and well-respected source of expertise for decision makers and institutions, such as EASA, the Commission and EUROCONTROL, as well as for the European Parliament. The long debate and campaign on Flight Time Limitations helped to form the leading role that ECA has earned vis-à-vis its members, the pilot unions and associations of Europe.

Now we will have to further strengthen the professional role of ECA. More than ever, our profession is under pressure: young pilots have to accept precarious conditions to find an entry into this business. After spending up to 130.000 € for their initial training they have to accept Pay-to-Fly schemes, zero-hours contracts or bogus self-employment to have a first job. This has to stop!

So here is my plea for our future: European pilots take on and fully embrace the task of protecting and promoting our profession for the future generations to come. We have a common responsibility, a common goal: protect, what we love most – flying – and protect the way we do it – safely!

by Dirk Polloczek