Aviation will be the last industry to recover from the covid 19 pandemic. The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS or Furlough Scheme) has protected jobs within the sector some degree, and pilots themselves have also agreed to covid mitigation measures to keep their own jobs, along with those of their colleagues who might otherwise have been made redundant. The extension of the scheme until September 2021 gives further breathing space, however decisions are unlikely to be made at short notice due to the nature of the industry, and possible legal requirements and timescales that might be imposed upon any employer wanting to make changes. The extension is only likely to provide limited relief going forward.
Whilst we remain of the view that there is an absence of specific targeted support for the sector, particularly in relation to getting the skies open, there are some measures that may help.
The Aviation Skills Retention Platform has been established, to boost employment and upskill candidates in the industry. Feedback is welcomed from any member who has used the site as to whether they found it helpful. The platform is publicized as an online skills and recruitment centre, with a number of companies and organisations working with it. Its purpose (taken from the gov.uk website) is to preserve essential expertise, and support those who are currently not working, and nurturing existing skills to lay the foundations for future growth when international travel restarts.
Which ties in nicely with the next initiative – the Global Travel Taskforce. After its initial report which set out 14 recommendations, the taskforce is next set to present its report on 12th April 2021. Many within the industry are saying that even if the report sets out a ‘roadmap’ for global travel over the summer and beyond, operators may simply not be able to meet demand in terms of booking demand from the public and any timescales set in the next report. Our criticism of the first report was the lack of detail around timings. Now we are starting to get indications from other countries as to their entry requirements for foreign travellers and dates from which visitors might be welcomed, a defined way forward for the UK aviation sector is imperative.
The extension of the 80/20 slot waiver from the Secretary of State for Transport for the summer 2021 season has been met with a mixed reaction. This very much depends on the operator as to whether this is considered a help or a hindrance to summer flight planning.
Going back to the issue of timing, we may see further restructuring and changes to employment within the UK aviation sector. It is possible that the extension of the CJRS comes too late for some employers who have already made a business case for redundancies, or covid mitigation arrangements, which will have directly affected the pilot workforce. Whilst you can be offered work back with your employer after you have been made redundant, there is no automatic right to return, and no recourse in law if you are not re-employed. For those employed, but who have been furloughed, some pilots may not have been in the cockpit for approaching a year. There have been media reports about pilots being ‘rusty’, and the risk of air travel safety as a consequence. What we are hearing from our members is that they are keen to get back into the cockpit, albeit there is likely to be some degree of anxiety in a few cases. We are already aware that employers are working with pilots who feel that they are ‘rusty’ and giving further support and training to ensure flight safety going forward.
Should anyone be concerned about their return to the cockpit, this should be discussed with their employer in the first instance. If any concerns are not addressed, then please do contact the office to discuss.
On a daily basis, we deal with diverse and often complex issues within the industry. Where contracts are tendered for and won (or lost) we advise members on the provisions of the Transfer of Undertakings Protection of Employment Regulations (TUPE). If employers are looking to restructure, we advise on the fairness and legitimacy of the plans proposed. Where employers are in the situation of having commence a redundancy process, we can have oversight to ensure that correct procedures are followed, including any relevant timescales, and that a fair and transparent process is applied. We often challenge companies where there is a requirement to have a selection matrix. We find that these may include a subjective element, which makes it difficult for the pilot at risk of redundancy to challenge. Or, there might be particular category and weighting that favours certain individuals within a company. Any selection matrix must not fall foul of the provisions of the Equality Act 2010.
We also continue to consult and negotiate at a collective level where the IPA is the recognised union. In the current climate, this can be particularly challenging, but we urge employers to work with us to find a way forward where there are issues that need to be resolved. No recognised union will want to bring an employer to its knees and risk their members being out of jobs. In most situations, there will be a way forward, but employers need to work with the union, not against it. This will preserve the working relationship between employer and employees and allow the union to act as a conduit when there are difficult conversations to be had.
We continue to arrange airline/operator specific forums on virtual platforms as these have been welcomed over the last year and have now also offered 1-2-1s to full members which have proven popular.
The legal team continue to undertake a variety of case work, whether individual cases or on behalf of a group of pilots. We have recently successfully obtained a protective award for our members who are former Thomas Cook pilots, with the judge awarding the full 90 days for failure to consult in a redundancy situation.
Our administration team are responsible for putting together and issuing communications to members, and first point of contact should you call us, so please ensure that we hold up to date details for you on our database. This is particularly important when we wish to send airline specific communications. Additionally, please ensure that we hold a current email address, as this is the most efficient way of contacting you. If we are dealing with large numbers, it is simply not feasible to have communications being send via different methods.
As a final point, if you are affected by an employment issue, please contact us. In most employment tribunal cases, you only have three months less one day from the date that the cause of action arises to lodge a claim on your behalf. If you think you are affected, but have not heard from us, please call within that three-month timescale, as otherwise we will not be able to help you.
This article has covered a number of issues. Please contact us 01444 441149, or firstname.lastname@example.org should you have any queries.