In a damning analysis on trends within the European aviation industry, an EU report titled Atypical Employment in Aviation, gives us a vision of what the future might be like for pilots, crew members and passengers.
In condemning what it calls a “race to the bottom” as a result of “new emerging business models such as outsourcing through elaborate subcontracting chains”, the report paints a bleak future where the welfare of pilots and the safety of passengers is compromised.
The report concludes that a fair balance between safety provisions, employers’ and workers’ rights is of paramount importance” if the wellbeing of pilots and the safety of passengers is to be secured.
The "race to the bottom” is unlikely to end soon, therefore cost-cutting and a determination to put profit before pilot welfare, will inevitably lead to the deprofessionalisation of pilots and to a ‘gig economy in the sky’ where the cheapest subcontractor will get to fly the plane.
The EU report makes it clear that the ramifications of this situation, where it is already “minutes past midnight”, include “hazardous safety issues” and “sheer social dumping”. It also reminds us, in the words of pilots themselves, what it means for their welfare:
“After 30 years of flying I can only see that this profession is by far not what it used to be. I cannot recommend this job to any young guy or girl….Aviation managers are bending, if not breaking the laws and expecting this from at least the young pilots as well...Strong demotivation, fatigue, reduced training and pushing beyond limits are common practice to reduce costs and hand out bonuses to 'leading' managers ... The catch is that pilots really love to fly otherwise not a plane takes off anymore with these conditions.”
The PPU was formed to fight for a better future for pilots, for respect, dignity and democratic representation. Today, the need to stay robust in our defence of the professionalism of pilots is urgent. Tomorrow, it will be critical.