We start 2023 with uncertainty both nationally and internationally. Whilst we don’t want to be doom and gloom, the reality for many is that there is a real cost of living crisis with inflation outstripping even meaningful pay increases whichever sector you work in. Energy costs are soaring, the cost of the weekly shop has increased by at least a third (looking at our own bill), and there are significant staff shortages across the employment spectrum.
And then there are the ongoing strikes across several vital professions/sectors. It’s safe to say that in the public eye, trade unions are currently like marmite – you either love us or hate us. If you work in any major city and need to get to the office via public transport, trade unions probably get 0/10 currently. If you are one of the several thousands of people waiting for an NHS referral, have had vital appointments postponed or need an ambulance there is likely to be some anger over the current situation. Whilst there is debate about who is at ‘fault’ – the government, the trade unions, or even the workers for balloting in favour of strike action, what is clear is that all trade unions are being tarred with the same brush. That simply isn’t fair.
Over Christmas I heard many conversations where ‘the trade unions’ were blamed for the state of the UK. Sadly, this broad-brush statement doesn’t reflect the fact that some trade unions are representing workers in the public sector, where the majority of disputes currently are. Yet there are several of the same unions, or those who only represent the private sector who are trying to achieve fair pay deals for their members (and would those working in the private sector garner the same support from the public?). Nor does it reflect the fact that a trade union will only ballot its members on industrial action if there is the desire from members. A ballot that doesn’t go in favour of such action significantly reduces a union’s bargaining capabilities. In addition to the actual ballot, it is down to the members (and not a decision of the trade union) to vote in favour. A union can only call its members out on strike if it has a mandate to do so – i.e. the ballot outcome has met the threshold of the relevant statutory requirements.
Even when a pay offer is made by the employer, it is incumbent on the union to put the proposal to its members to accept or reject. The union may make a recommendation on that point, but we have seen several cases where union members have voted against the recommendation.
The simple fact is that trade unions cannot legally call members out on strike (or other industrial action) without the go ahead from its members.
We have returned to the office this January already busy with members with employment issues. Some have remained unresolved from 2022, but we already have given advice on redundancy, TUPE, flexible working, bonds and contract disputes. We continue to face the struggle of employers telling employees that they are not entitled to representation from their chosen union. This is not true, as employees have a legal right to be represented by a trade union representative of their choice.
We would of course say that pilots should be trade union members, specifically the IPA. The first week of January has demonstrated the importance of trade union membership, and how the IPA works for the benefit of its members. We aren’t affiliated to any UK operator, we are contactable outside of normal office hours, we won’t make unrealistic promises, we are here to support and represent you as an individual and we will be there when it matters to protect your employment rights.
Taking out the politics, stepping away from the current situation as detailed above, we consider membership of the IPA as good value insurance against problems that arise in your employment. You hope you don’t need us, but we are there if or when you do, and increasingly it is a case of ‘when’. The caveat to this is that we are not after the event insurance – we cannot represent you in pre-existing employment matters.
If you are a member, please ensure that you have looked at our website to see the full range of member benefits available to you. If you are not a member, why not?
We look forward to continuing to grow the membership in 2023 and beyond, and providing you with the professional service you would expect from your trade union.