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What others are doing cheaper, I have to do better

Becoming a pilot has been a lifelong dream for me. May last year, the dream came true and I got my pilot license. It was tough, hard and exciting, all at the same time. In the end, all those hours spent reading, memorizing and understanding, finally paid off. But will it pay off in terms of job opportunities and conditions in the future?

Please visit my newly-published page Flight Training for more information on the training process.

With my little break between the instrument rating and the commercial license, I am still keeping up with aviation news, publications, and once in a while I pull out the FAR-AIM from my Jeppessen flight bag, just to read a few paragraphs.

“If you can’t find what you’re looking for in the FAR-AIM, it’s not a valid problem.”
That book has it all, amazing.

Recently, I have been airing some of my thoughts on the aviation industry on my blog. I also talk to my parents and my not-so-into-aviation-friends about it too. My mom said to me “Does all this negative attention regarding jobs, contract workers and labor from low-cost country, affect you at all?”

Truth be told, it definitely does. Not in a discouraging way, though. It actually triggers me. I have to work harder, better and longer to make myself “employable”, even though I can’t compete in terms of wages with pilots from other parts of the world. I need to be the best qualified pilot out there. What others are doing cheaper, I have to do better.

It's all about the pre-flight. Preparing for what is laying ahead is essential for success.

The big question is, of course, if airlines will value experience, comprehensive training and a degree, in the future.

In my last post, I discussed the employment contracts, the use of temporary workers and pay checks. To summarize, I’m not worried about pilot wages. I’m more worried about how people are employed.
When I’m ready to apply for my first aviation job, I want to make sure the contract allows me to be home with a sick child, or calling in sick my self (IMSAFE) without risking my job. That has unfortunately become the rule many places now. Pilots could reluctantly go to job, even though they are not fit-for-flight, because they fear they might be without a job at the end of the day.
Now we’re not just talking employment laws, we’re talking worldwide aviation safety concerns. That is something we should take very seriously.

Please visit Karlene’s blog on this very issue. Her take on it, is very real.

What people in other sectors are taking for granted, pilots have to fight for, every day. That doesn’t seem fair to me.

– Cecilie

Employment, contracts and pay checks

The European Union’s Directive on Temporary Work will in a few words, reduce the economic difference between temporary workers and permanent workers.

The purpose of this Directive is to ensure the protection of temporary agency workers and to improve the quality of temporary agency work by ensuring that the principle of equal treatment, as set out in Article 5, is applied to temporary agency workers, and by recognising temporary-work agencies as employers, while taking into account the need to establish a suitable framework for the use of temporary agency work with a view to contributing effectively to the creation of jobs and to the development of flexible forms of working.

Yes, that was one sentence.

I have yet to make up my mind if I want to vote for or against the Directive during this summer’s national convention for the Young Conservative Party. Both opponents and supporters of the directive within the party, argue that they want more temporary workers, and a more flexible work environment. I agree, I think it is important to have flexible employment opportunities, but I think that only applies to certain sectors. And aviation is certainly not that type of sector.

Either way, if the Directive is passed, and employers will have to pay the same wage to a temporary worker, as a permanent worker (which is a good thing), temporary workers will still have loads of challenges. How are they supposed to go to the bank and apply for a loan to buy a house, if they can’t provide proof of permanent employment?

Why would I argue against the use of contract employees or temporary workers in the aviation industry? Because it is a great financial risk for the employee. It increases stress. It leaves the employee feeling insecure about his/her job situation. All these impacts will be brought in to the flight deck. I don’t want stressed out, fatigued pilots, flying my plane.

There is an ongoing struggle between the Norwegian Air Shuttle (NAS, Norwegian low-cost carrier) and their pilots. The CEO of NAS, Bjørn Kjos wants to reduce costs to compete with other European low-cost operators such as Ryanair and Wizz Air. Understandable. I think that reducing cost is essential, because the Norwegian market needs NAS as a competitor, to the partly-government-owned Scandinavian Airlines (SAS). NAS plans on starting long-haul operations starting next year with the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. I would love to fly for Norwegian, and the Dreamliner, but my dream might just remain that way – a dream.

Bjørn Kjos has announced, through Rishworth Aviation, pilot openings for their LH-ops, The catch is – you have to be based in Bangkok, Thailand. No matter how tempting that may sound when you’re in your 20s and would love to live in a warm, humid climate, I’m not so sure how established pilots with families, kids, station wagon and a furry dog would appreciate that the same way.

Norwegian might be in clear weather right now, but I see some potential Cumulonimbuses brewing in the horizon.

The pilots currently employed (permanently), of course, are not very happy about the situation, and are threatening the company with a potential strike.

NAS’s answer to a possible strike? Wet-lease aircrafts from other carriers in Europe. Sparking even more tension to the situation, and leaving the papers full with stories of Norwegian-passengers boarding “filthy” and “unsafe” (passengers’ words) airplanes from Latvia.

The pilots say it’s not about the wages (because they are good) but more about the employment situation. This supports my idea that it is better to be permanently employed, rather than temporarily, with a possible lower pay check each month, but with good job security.

The cost of living in Norway is horrendous. It is so expensive to live here, which forces the employers to every year increase the pay checks for their workers. This applies to all sectors. I think we are approaching a limit here, very soon. Just look at the shipping industry. I fear that the same situation that we see there today, with the Captain being Scandinavian, and the rest of the crew from the Philippines, will be the state of the aviation industry in the future if we don’t do something.

My thoughts:

– Vote in FAVOR of the Directive on temporary work, so that employers loose a financial incentive to hire part time workers (with the Directive implemented, it will be just as “expensive” for the employer to hire part time v.s permanently)

– Advocate for permanent employment contracts in the aviation sector, with the consequence that the pay check will be slightly reduced, but with an increase in job security

– Allow for a flexible employment situation in areas it is deemed appropriate. I repeat, aviation is not such an area.

– Cecilie

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