In an official BALPA Newsletter circulated to Scotia Helicopters there seems to be an almost self-congratulatory statement about the recent departure of a BALPA employee. This BALPA employee is to take up a senior managerial position within the Company that he had only completed some complex and potentially contentious so called ‘harmonisation’ and pay deal. This was certainly not to the satisfaction of all and questionably not to the satisfaction of the majority of the pilot workforce and again, questionably perhaps to the satisfaction of the management. This self-congratulatory statement is as follows; “…Jim is the fourth member of our staff to be poached by an airline management in recent years, this demonstrates the calibre of staff whom we employ and consequently how hard the task of recruitment will be…” I would be disappointed if it were the first member of their staff to be poached, as there should be in place a conditional requirement in their terms and conditions with a time period before they were permitted to gain employment within any organisation that they had negotiated with. This makes sure that everything is seen to be above board and provides confidence to the members being represented by these negotiators. This is very much in the manner that embargo’s are placed on management either leaving organisations or selling out part or all of their company. For it to happen a second time without this sort of condition be implemented is disgraceful. For fourth occurrence to happen is totally unforgivable within an organisation that has a major function of sorting out terms and conditions. How can they provide confidence that they are able to correctly sort terms and conditions on behalf of members that they are supposed to represent if they are not able to put their own house in order? To further rub ‘salt into the wound’ to try and justify these by praising the calibre of their staff just makes me sorry that this organisation is supposed to represent me.
I agree VB. The only people who seem to have come out of this harmonization well are the ex BIH people. By keeping harmonization costs down it meant more in the pot for a pay rise, which suited ex BIH staff. Realy fair for all staff, well done BALPA!!!
Volant Brique I have a great deal of empathy with your statement but I think that the BALPA statement comes from a source other than BALPA Head Office. However, your reaction and that of many others is exactly the reaction that the Scotia management was hoping for!
This whole sad affair of Jim O'Donnell joining Scotia, I believe as A Human Resources Director, should be the final straw, He did not get the job because of his stunning interview technique, or through his personality, and certainly not through his achievements in his previous job: No the reason is much more sinister, O'Donnell got the job because Scotia management wanted to undermine the BALPA recognition and rub pilots noses in their supposedly weak position.
The solution surely is, firstly, that all the union representatives refuse to work with or negotiate with Mr. O'Donnell, thereby making his position untenable and his job short lived. Secondly, everyone on the North Sea should realize that his or her efforts are absolutely crucial to the Oil Industry.
The managers and owners of the Helicopter Companies are determined to grind us down. Decreasing real pay levels, deteriorating conditions of service, degrading pension benefits and continuing redundancies. Meanwhile the oil executives grow wealthy on bonuses paid for by squeezing us to death.
British Airways mainline were unfortunate that many of their cabin staff fell ill on the same dates and to be honest the North Sea is beginning to make me feel sick also. Is anyone else feeling unwell?
There is obviously a great misconception out there between RED and BLUE companies about pilot salaries.The BIH P1 salaries did not change in the harmonization process,P2's were to change from scales based on hours to smaller yearly increments,significantly disadvantaging all (not resolved yet). We, (BIH),were under the impression that the Bond Captains were to move up onto the equivalent BIH level leading us to believe that BIH co-pilots were the only ones being disadvantaged. The oil companies are the problem closely followed by senior management. As pilots we should unite and not divide!!
Pilots are supposed to be intelligent professionals but sometimes we can be a really sad bunch of no hopers.
The Helicopter managers must think Christmas has come early when they realize that their basic trick of divide and rule is working so easily, as demonstrated my the comments by chopperman, 365 budgie and arm the floats.
The sooner we stop squabbling with each other and concentrate on the elements that are systematically trying to undermine our conditions of employment, the better.
PLEASE read my previous entry and comment. Let's try to improve our situation not make the management job an O'Donnell , sorry an O'Doddle!
[This message has been edited by Houdini (edited 28 June 2000).]
I am surprised by the total silence of everyone seeming not to be concerned by being represented by a negotiator who is quite able to join the same management team that he has been in delicate negotiations with. By BALPAs own admission this has happened FOUR times.
What are they doing to rectify this?
Why is no statement coming from this organisation about the matter?
The only statement has been in the form of a self -congratulatory tome that I mentioned when starting this thread. This was an internal newsletter on paper headed with the official BALPA logo - you may be correct Houdini, by stating that it is other than BALPA Head Office. That makes it even more worrying! How can anyone say they have confidence in this organisation to represent him or her in any discussions? Is everyone who is represented by this organisation satisfied with them over this matter? There have, to the best of my knowledge been a considerable number of resignations from BALPA within Scotia. This initially started due to what was felt as not being well represented in the so-called harmonisation negotiations and then when the negotiator joining the same management that he had just concluded the harmonisation negotiations, caused a lot more.
For ‘Arm the Floats’ – the impression you had in your previous post is incorrect. Bond Captains did not move UP to the equivalent BIH level. They moved DOWN to the nearest BIH equivalent to maintain a static level. This could be as much as 5 to 7 years negated service! Do you call that harmonisation?
‘Chopperman’ – until you are able to get your facts correct, I suggest you do not try and have a go at ‘365 budgie’. If you had them correct, you would not be able to have a go at him!
By seeing the postings on here with reference to the harmonisation, it is blatantly obvious that there is a lack of accurate information about it. However, this thread was started not to dissect the harmonisation – it might be worth starting a separate thread for that. It was to question the organisation that does the negotiations supposedly on our behalf. Do you have confidence in them to effectively conduct this role if the negotiator is able to leave to join an organisation that he has just been in discussion with? Everyone seems to be skirting around this why?
Well said Volant Brique, I have seen no evidence to date that indicates BALPA listern to what their members are saying to them. Concidering the cost of being a member of BALPA I for one expect more communication from them to its members.
Chopperman, may I suggest you get your facts right before you accuse others of being incorrect!!!
VB you are right but those who leave BALPA are falling for the management ploy, which is exactly what they want! BALPA is a long way short of perfect but maybe the new man is going to be better. He certainly couldn't be any worse! He might have integrity.
There is no choice if you want some sort of future. Try negotiating individually some chance! You are being set up and its working. Like it or not you have to work through an organization. The only alternative is some other union but that would be difficult.
Well said Volant Brique, but what to do now. How do we move forward? How about cry foul and start the talks all over again, I doubt the company would wear that, and most pilots would find that frustrating also.Its going to be 2 years before we get another go at this (provided that the rates don't go down again and the company cannot afford next years rise!)In the mean time its time to decide if we let BALPA have another go. Maybe a revamped North Sea Pilots Assoc. might be the answer. Houdini - I have been informed by BALPA to approach the company and negotiate my own deal as I'm disadvantaged by the new deal. I know of several others that are in the same position. So we are back to individual settlements without the help of the union, different pilots on different deals. That's not right. Theres to much luck involved in this deal. If you were in the right place and your time in the company was just right you did well out of the deal, others did not.I suggest that if anybody needs to work with the new admin. manager they bypass him and go straight to the MD explaining their reasons for doing so!
Houdini is right, squabbling amongst ourselves will get us nowhere fast. I also agree with him that the management is setting us up and unless we work together, through an organisation, we will be the losers.
So, where do we go from here? As we are all well aware, Balpa as an organisation has its faults, however, we should remember that WE are the union and our representatives on the council are exactly that, representatives, and as such should put forward the views of the majority regardless of their own personal feelings. This is what they were elected to do, if they are not doing so then it is up to us, the membership, to make sure that they do. For a start they must be told in no uncertain terms that any time they negotiate with the company on our behalf, especially about pay and conditions, that the membership must be consulted for its approval before anything is signed.
Now, let’s talk about the Jim O’Donnell situation. Whether we like it or not I fear that we (Scotia) are stuck with him, however, it’s not up to the Company Council to decide whether or not they will work with him, it’s up to us to direct them on the matter and for them to act accordingly. If we, as a majority, don’t want them to work with him then they don’t, it’s as simple as that. As I said, they are there to represent the majority view, which may not necessarily be the same as their own.
Harmonisation, sadly, I believe that we are stuck with this deal whether we like it or not, however, I agree with VB that the subject might be worthy of a separate thread so I will save most of my comments for later. Just a word for Semi Rigid Rotor, I am aghast at Balpa for telling you to negotiate your own deal. DON’T accept that, put it in writing to your local rep, copy it to New Road and please copy it to all other Balpa members in the company, via e-mail, so that they know what is going on. Then we can all lobby our respective reps on the subject; THEY should be talking to management on your behalf. I hope that you will find most of the membership on your side, I for one will be.
Finally, leaving the union is not the best way of voicing our discontent, that would leave us at the mercy of a management who would be only to glad to see the back of Balpa. They could then fulfil their dream of a ‘pool of pilots’, all on temporary contracts, to hire and fire at will. Some form of pilot representation is required to safeguard our future employment. I’m not sure that a ‘revamped NSPA’ is the right way to go, however, the idea does deserve some serious discussion, who knows, it may lead to something new. In the meantime I feel that we have to continue with Balpa, but let’s put the reps in the picture as to who is in the driving seat.
Both Houdini and Chopperman are consistent in their supposed paranoia that we are currently being set up by the management. Let us look at FACTS as they have occurred.
An organisation that was basically structured for its workforce to negotiate through union representation, merged/took-over an organisation within which union recognition was not permitted. They only conciliation within that organisation was that of a Staff Council. The MD of this enlarged organisation stated that he would only negotiate with a single union on behalf of the pilot workforce. That union was BALPA. The combined workforce was not canvassed as to which union they wanted to represent them or consulted about this matter at all. It was the MANAGEMENT DECISION that it would be BALPA. Additionally, the previous Staff Council was now no longer accepted or recognised. In fact the dissolution of the Staff Council again was not discussed with the workforce. It is even debatable about the lack of adherence to the constitutional format of the Staff Council in the manner in which it was dissolved. The decision that the single negotiating party would be BALPA was a management decision.
Speaking for myself and I feel sure for a lot of the RED team who were not sure about union procedures and the like felt that now we were under the umbrella of professional negotiators the best deal would be achieved. By best, most of us did not feel that the short-term benefit was all that had to be achieved. What was more important was the stability of the long-term future for the merged company. I know how most expected the salary differential to be adjusted. (However, this would then dissect the “disharmonisation” negotiations – suggest that someone start a new thread on that if you wish).
The only noticeable aspect at this time was the lack of any information coming from either the management or BALPA, and that to BALPA members as well as non-BALPA staff. In my naivety, along with that of most RED team members, we thought after the initial negotiations had taken place we would be told what was on the table and would be canvassed or at least have a say about it. This was not the case. The BALPA team agreed terms with the management without any consultation with the workforce. It is true that the RED team were flat-footed, as we had expected to have some communication from the negotiators about the negotiations. This was worse than our previous non-union structure. At least in those days we did at least have a voice and know that at least we were listened to, admittedly not always getting what we may have wanted, but were told the reasoning for it.
Now we are presented with a deal that we did not have a say in and bluntly told that is it. The BALPA negotiator now joins the same management team that stated that it would only negotiate with BALPA.
To then find out that this is the FOURTH member of BALPA to join an organisation that they have been just negotiating with and BALPA have done nothing to correct this I find more than worrying.
For you Chopperman to say BALPA as an organisation has its faults I think is an understatement! You then state that WE are the union and the representatives are there as representatives of our feelings. That is perhaps as it SHOULD BE. That is how we all THOUGHT it should be. In reality what happened. How many can say that they were told what was being discussed in the negotiations? How many were canvassed before BALPA agreed to the harmonisation? What consultation process took place with the members? You then glibly talk about us directing the Company Council as to whether they talk with the new administration management member from BALPA. To direct someone requires communication. What communication has there been during the harmonisation discussions/negotiations? I’m sorry I naively once put my trust in this organisation and got firmly kicked in the teeth for it. For you to further state in your posting that “…a management team who would only be to(o) glad to see the back of BALPA…”, remember it is THIS management team that ENSURED that BALPA would be the only single negotiator! I ask you why? You could ask if it is not better to deal with a lame duck than someone with teeth. At least the engineering division within the organisation seems to have a union who is standing up for ALL of the members in their harmonisation negotiations and I’m sure that that division will have long-term stability once they finally sort it out. Wish I could say the same about the pilot workforce.
I agree with you Volant Brique, and feel that BALPA had the chance to win over the workforce and blew it. I think Semirigid Rotors idea of a revamped NSPA is worth looking into because that will be pilots looking after pilots interests. This Question needs to be asked around the bases to see what the responce would be and would people be willing to join.
Good last posting Volant Brique. When known facts are produced the paranoia merchants seemed to have scurried to take shelter. I agree with all you say.
Hawkwind you have hit the nail on the head . . . . . Balpa had the chance to win over the work force and blew it. I agree and further more to be so silent about losing their staff negotiator in the manner that he has gone speaks volumes about the organisation itself.
I find it interesting about the various postings about revamping the NSPA. Why was this considered in the first place all those years ago? Balpa was around then. Was it not the case that the North Sea pilots as a whole were sick and fed up that the only union to represent them, Balpa was useless and they were looking for an alternative. Has any thing changed since? I would say yes, the total arrogance and take it or leave it attitude of Balpa has got worse. This is always the case when there is no alternative.
Let us seriously look how one can go forward with a new North Sea Pilots Association. Any ideas anyone?
The NSPA was chaired by Carl Mason who was with British Caledonian Helicopters. He was not taken on by Bristows when BCHL were bought out by them in November 1987 – nor were any 1977 Bristow pilot strike participants – and Carl went fixed wing in a training role at Prestwick.
As you will see from my profile I am thankfully no longer active in the North Sea, but the arguments you guys are putting forward are nothing new and have been the talk of crewrooms since we put the first Whirlwind out to a rig. The problem with the NSPA was that it was never going to be recognised by the employers and could never have any clout, but I was one of the founder members just the same. At least you have BALPA recognised now across all the North Sea helicopter operators, although you all have a right to be critical about how one of BALPA’s employees can be “negotiating” on your behalf just prior to starting employment with that operator.
BALPA Company Councils must have the support of their members. If you don’t think they are doing enough for you then volunteer yourselves. BALPA is a long way from being perfect and a long way from understanding the North Sea helicopter industry. BALPA is only as good as the sum of its members – if you don’t like what they are doing tell them!! Running away and resigning from BALPA, or thinking of resurrecting the NSPA, plays right into the management’s hands. BALPA is all you’ve got – make it work!
There seems to be some misconception that the managements of the helicopter companies are obliged to look after their employees and offer a career structure. A few years ago I wrote to the Directors in my Company and said that their policies were going to tear the heart out of the middle experience pilots in their 30’s to the point where they would all go fixed-wing. Their answer was that they did not intend to offer salaries and structure that would compete with the airlines and they accepted that once pilots completed their six-year bond they would leave. They are just not interested in providing you with a career structure.
You guys have to realise that you are unfortunately just cannon fodder in the eyes of your management. If your bum moves out of the seat someone else will fill it and be only too glad of the job. The bean counters are all that matters. The only way you are going to have any impact is to all go on a legal strike together and bring the transportation of passengers to a halt. It will unfortunately never happen. There will always be those with a misguided sense of company loyalty as history has proved in the past.
Speechless Two you've hit the nail on the head! I have a 2 year bond and feel nothing but frustration towards this company.My loyalty is reserved for the excellent training staff and other colleagues.When I leave at the end of my bond I hope the sums don't add up for a company that prefers a pool of less experienced staff - money before safety! In the meantime I will continue to support BALPA (problems have to be addressed from within)
I have been reading with interest the comments by people about this whole affair before I commit myself to my first post.
I have been affected by the recent merger talks with Scotia and I feel somethig should be done to stop the rot. While I agree there has to be change from within, there seems to be little evidence for change over the years by the Balpa organisation. If Balpa were interested then it should have alredy in place measures to stop officials doing what Mr O'Donnell has done. The comment about bean counters and no interest in people or careers by the companies is a valid one. But sometimes I wonder if the same applies to Balpa.
Has Balpa become an organisation more concerned with profit margins than the members?
One question though, I thought the law has changed and if the pilots had a majority within NSPA wouldn't the companies have to recognise it?
Having said that I don't think the NSPA would gain membership enouigh to get off the ground let alone a majority.
I initially did not want to join in this thread as I am coming towards the end of my North Sea flying and feel that the pilots that have their careers ahead of them should be trying to sort things out. I find it disappointing that I have to agree with what Davie Emsee said “Apathy rules”.
As a lot of the pilots around today were not around when the North Sea Pilots Association (NSPA) was first muted. I have heard a lot of misconceptions about it in the crew rooms. I often wonder if this is management propaganda to prevent pilots considering it again. There seems to be a believe within the industry that as the North Sea Pilots Association did not work first time it will not in the future. The problem is that there is a lot of myth surrounding this not getting off the ground, with very little factual information.
For any such organisation to develop beyond the embryonic stage at a time when there was a surplus of helicopters, flying and ground crews, required wholesale support by the majority. At the time there was initially support from majority of the North Sea pilots from all of the companies. I was employed by Bond at that time and can say that there was a genuine feeling from the majority of the pilots to support it. This was short lived due to the following reason. Shortly after forming, and as Speechless Two indicated in his post, the driving force for the NSPA became embittered pilots who previously had been Bristow pilot strike participants and were not taken on when Bristows bought out British Caledonian Helicopters (BCAL). A large number of BCAL pilots were strike participants. In my opinion, the focus of the embryonic NSPA diverted from being for the industry as a whole and diverted as mechanism to ‘have a go at Alan Bristow’. This seemed to be the only focus that the NSPA wanted to target. It was at this stage that the supporters within Bond felt uncomfortable with the situation and their support started to wane, as I feel that of some of the other companies. This in turn diluted the effectiveness of the embryonic NSPA. I remember numerous meetings where this was pointed out to NSPA organisers only to fall on deaf ears. I do feel, like a lot of my contemporaries, that had it not turned into this single target campaign then it would have succeeded. I further feel that as an industry we would not be in the pickle we are today.
It is interesting to note that BALPA members gave wholesale support for the NSPA. BALPA members were sick and fed up with their organisation and felt that this would now give them a chance to try and sort out their helicopter industry, something fixed-wing BALPA, had not been able to do and also did not seemed interested at doing anything about. Little seems to have changed!
Would it succeed today?
I say it would. I would even say it would succeed even if there were not total support for it!
What everyone who says it would never succeed seems to forget is this. The North Sea industry as a whole has been driven very hard by the energy operators to reduce overheads drastically. To achieve this they have and are changing work practices. Today, the helicopter is an essential tool for the industry. Helicopters are not just used for crew changing (which could temporarily be done by boats if required). Two of many various further essential requirements for helicopters are as an essential prerequisite for their safety cases. A lot of installations do not have the number of safety standby vessels as before. This is because the helicopter fits in the safety scene. A lot of installations are now of the not normally manned status. This requires the helicopter to be used to man them up in the event of an outage to reinstate the production. I could state quite a few other conditions but the point is that the helicopter is an essential requirement for routine operations. No helicopters = no operations. No operations = no energy. No energy = no revenue. With the way the energy industry is today the helicopter is an essential mechanism and there is no easy alternative. What must also be considered is that there is very little spare capacity on airframes. Additionally, the pilot workforce has been honed down to the bare bones. I am lead to believe by my colleagues that in the Southern North Sea that if more than one pilot is off sick on one of the fleets then the operations almost grind to a halt. They only get by with the co-operation of numerous roster changes and a flexible approach by the pilots. This apparently is beginning to wane, as it has become the norm to get them by.
When the NSPA was first considered there was a lot of spare capacity in airframes and pilots. Today there is not. To switch pilots from one operator to another is no longer a tick in the box but does take time. Houdini in his posts made mention of beginning to feel unwell and asking if anyone else is feeling unwell. It would not require too many unwell pilots before operations in many fields came to a halt.
In all the time that I have been associated with the North Sea industry there has never been this vulnerability. This will not last forever. It is just a question of time before a third operator is brought in and the initiative will have been lost.
For those pilots who wish to have a better life flying on the North Sea, for goodness sake, stop being so apathetic and get things sorted out for your futures. Don’t come to the end of your careers saying if only …………. which is where you are all going!