As we head out of the summer months, it is an opportunity to reflect on the last 6 months of what has been the most challenging year so far that many of us have ever experienced.
When lockdown was announced, the IPA office closed in line with government guidelines, and all staff started working remotely. Throughout the period of home working, we were able to continue to offer the full services that our members expect from their union. We came back to the office following a thorough return to work risk assessment, which we continue to review as the safety and wellbeing of staff is paramount, and as we find ourselves adapting to frequently changing guidance.
As an organisation we are very lucky to have a Board of Directors who responded quickly to the situation by taking the decision to temporarily reduce subscription rates by a third for six months. Legal cover over the same period remained at up to £30,000. This has benefited members as we have lodged claims with the Employment Tribunal in relation to members employment during this period. Our subscription rates represent excellent value for money, and IPA membership enables us to help you when it matters. In these difficult times, we have had to advise pilots who have not been members and contact us that we cannot assist with pre-existing employment issues. Although this can be a difficult conversation to have, you don’t insure your car after the accident, and we have to use members funds to support those members who are with us when their employment dispute arises.
A great number of you were in contact with us during lockdown, as pretty much overnight grounded the aviation industry. Our staff worked tirelessly to ensure that members were contacted quickly, and Zoom calls scheduled as necessary when there were developments with various operators. We had positive feedback from many of you, and we will look to continue with regular Zoom ‘catch ups’ if our members would find these beneficial. We will email in relation to airline specific meetings in due course to gauge interest.
In addition to communicating with our members, we made a submission to the Transport Select Committee, and have written to ministers regarding the lack of specific support for UK aviation. Whilst the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme has offered some support, Rishi Sunak remains under pressure to offer something more to protect employment following the end of the current scheme in October. Philip Flower also prepared a draft template for our members to submit to their local MP.
Many operators have conducted redundancy processes with varying outcomes. There is no one right answer for these unprecedented times, but for us as a pilot union, the priority must be the preservation of as many jobs within the UK as possible. Whilst most of us will accept that some redundancies are inevitable, this industry is vital to the UK economy and must continue. It is a false economy to make redundancies when it could only be a matter of months before more pilots are required again.
It has been, and for many continues to be, a hugely unsettling and stressful time. Just when things start to look up, travel corridors change, infection rates go up and we are faced with further restrictions again. We have been impressed with the approach that many of our members have taken to support their pilot community and can only hope that this is rewarded by continued careers as a pilot for most of you.
This year the IPA has seen membership numbers rise. We have had a steady increase in recent years but could not have anticipated this level of membership during a global pandemic. We continue to welcome pilots from across the UK aviation sector and have recently seen an increase in members from the rotary sector.
The best feedback we have from our members is that we are contactable. If you have concerns, we are here to give help and support. If you are invited to a meeting, we can and will support you. Where the process is flawed, or wrong, we will challenge it on your behalf.
This industry is facing uncertainty for the foreseeable future, and we can only reiterate the importance of IPA membership and its benefits. Some of you and your colleagues may be in the position where you know what the future holds for you for the time being. Whilst we would ordinarily wish to end on a positive note, in the current climate we can only urge you to encourage non-IPA members to join so that they too have cover in place should further issues arise in the future.