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Pay discrimination in ATC

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Pay discrimination in ATC

Old 8th Mar 2019, 16:16
  #1 (permalink)  
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Pay discrimination in ATC

I am an air traffic controller working in Bahrain, and there is a mixture of local and foreigner air traffic controllers from different countries in its control center. The foreign air traffic controllers get paid a salary 3 times more than the local air traffic controllers, and we all work in the same place together and we are all colleagues and do the exact same job. The local ATCOs work for and get paid by the government, while the non-local ATCOs work and get paid by a private ANSP that are in contract with the government to provide and manage air traffic control services there. Since we all work together, and the non-local ATCOs get paid way much, that causes a bitter feeling for the local folks and a sense of unfairness and discrimination in the work environment. Now my question is does this consider pay discrimination based on nationality? Is it legal to do that or not?
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Old 8th Mar 2019, 19:36
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OK, I'll bite.

To answer your ultimate question, is it legal or not, well that rather depends on the law in the country in question - and I'm afraid I have no idea.

More generally, whilst this situation may seem unfair, are you comparing like with like? What is the contract offered to local employees - does it give confidence of a long-term job, working directly for a State government can sometimes mean 'a job for life'? How long can a sub-contractor be assured of a job? Does the directly employed contract include a pension, sub-contractor jobs usually do not? Housing costs for non-locals on indeterminate contracts are usually significantly higher than the opportunities available to nationals for a variety of reasons. Education costs for non-nationals are likely to be higher also, if for no other reason than sub-contractors are often going to prefer sending children to an international school. Similar arguments may apply to health insurance costs. And, of course, if the sub-contractor has a family, he or she will want to maintain a family life, either by having their family with them or having acceptable arrangements for going home to spend time with them - this is likely to be less of an issue for a local, directly employed person. If the government wants or feels the need to attract personnel from other countries, it will have to offer a package that is sufficiently attractive to tempt suitably skilled and competent people to apply and join the team. I'm not saying this is right or wrong, simply stating a few facts from my perspective having been in similar situations myself (both as a local and an incomer).

Having said all that, all other things being equal, I do believe that people doing the same job should receive the same remuneration (for the work that they do). The problem sometimes is that other things are not equal - such as the going rate for a particular job in different countries - and in order to attract non-nationals it may be necessary to pay a supplement that provides an equivalent level of income to that available in other countries. But ATC is increasingly becoming a global business - if anyone has the skills and competences to do the job, there are often opportunities available across the border.
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Old 8th Mar 2019, 21:23
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Very comprehensive & accurate answer. Well done.
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Old 9th Mar 2019, 12:38
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Okay LookingForAJob your answer is good in a generic point of view, but let me give you some insights. First of all, I checked if Bahrain has laws against pay discrimination like most western countries in Europe and North America, and unfortunately it does not, so from a legal standpoint what they do is permitted, nevertheless, that does not necessarily make it neither ethical nor moral.

Telling me that foreigners must get paid more due to the fact that they require accommodation and tickets to go back home and family members coming over to live with them and all that, its is hypothetically sound until you see the numbers and statistics in pay difference. The median salary for a Bahraini ATCO in US dollars is $5000 a month (in Bahrain salary is calculated per month). Meanwhile, the median salary of a foreign ATCO in Bahrain is $15000 a month. That is a difference of $10000 a month! Now if someone thinks that accommodation and other expense costs $10000 a MONTH in Bahrain, they are totally absurd. Most expenses in Bahrain are equal for both foreigners and locals. Hell Bahrain as a country did not even have any taxes not until 2019. Before that it was a tax free country, and still to date there is no income tax, and it is not a very expensive country to live in, especially for someone that gets paid USD 180,000 a year!

This ain’t no rocket science, if you know how to count, you will realize the injustice in this.
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Old 9th Mar 2019, 12:49
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Originally Posted by kcockayne View Post
Very comprehensive & accurate answer. Well done.
kcockayne how about you come over and work hard doing this job when the guy sitting next to you doing the same thing is getting paid 3 times more than you do, if that happens I don't think you'll be thinking very comprehensive and accurate. It is easy to say that when you don't have your back against the wall.
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Old 9th Mar 2019, 17:46
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I never said that it was fair that you got paid less; only that LookingForAJob's assessment was factually accurate. No one has actually put forward a justification for this apparent unfairness. If what you say is correct, I have sympathy for you. You, & your local colleagues have to decide if there is anything that you can do to change the situation. I wish you good luck.

Last edited by kcockayne; 9th Mar 2019 at 17:47. Reason: correcting a mistake
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Old 9th Mar 2019, 18:22
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Originally Posted by kcockayne View Post
I never said that it was fair that you got paid less; only that LookingForAJob's assessment was factually accurate. No one has actually put forward a justification for this apparent unfairness. If what you say is correct, I have sympathy for you. You, & your local colleagues have to decide if there is anything that you can do to change the situation. I wish you good luck.
Thank you sir.
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Old 9th Mar 2019, 19:28
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I have no intention of getting into a prolonged debate over this.

You asked a question - I gave an answer. I did not say it was fair, indeed, I specifically made the point that I believe people doing the same job should be paid the same for doing the job. Nor did I say that foreigners must be paid more than local employees, rather that it may be necessary to pay more to attract a foreigner to a particular job if it is decided that foreigners are required.

I do not know the current cost of rents, medical cover and education in Bahrain so I do not know how much of the additional pay will be taken by these elements, Similarly, the amount of money that a worker may choose to put aside for retirement can be significant.

Another point that I would make, particularly as you mention USD, is that some people will have to pay tax to their home State on their income wherever it may be earned so, some of the people that you are working next to may be paying significant more tax (pro-rata) than you - if you are working with any US citizens you might like to have a chat with them about this.

I'm still not saying any of this is fair, but life was not designed to be fair. I happen to be happily unmarried, but in many jobs I have received less money at the end of the month than my married colleagues doing exactly the same job because there is some allowance that is included in the pay arrangements for some reason. Likewise, I have seen contracts where, because I was unmarried I would get one trip home each year whereas someone with a family would get three trips home each year. One pension scheme that I have been in would pay a substantial pension to my spouse (if I had one) if I died - being unmarried, that benefit went back into the fund so that all the married people could get their payments. Is any of this fair - well, I don't think it's particularly equitable...but in most cases there's not a lot I can do about it. Where I could do something, I did.

There are some things you can control and others you cannot - but we each have a degree of control over our destiny. We are fortunate to work in a global business - if you have something you think is of value to offer and it's not currently recognised, you can pack your bags and go and sell yourself somewhere else. On the other hand, if you have, for example, a family in Bahrain that you do not want to uproot, or you like having some of the things that the State provides for you, you may choose to stay where you are. Whatever your circumstances, you have choices. And, as you say, it's not rocket science.

While I'm happy, if time permits, to enter into reasoned discussion on topics to which I contribute, if the reaction to someone who holds a differing view to yourself is simply to reject that other view and to become borderline offensive, I will equally happily withdraw.
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Old 9th Mar 2019, 20:25
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LookingForAJob I object to your view simply because I think that you are somehow trying to make something that is discriminatory sound like it is normal, nevertheless we all have different views and eventually I respect all views.
Marriage allowances are very normal in many jobs, even among us the local controller, married employees get paid an allowance for being married, while others that are not married, like myself, do not have that. But that is not, by any means, comparable to the situation that I am talking about. I am aware that a lot of countries impose income tax on their citizens income wherever in the world they work at, and still I do not see the relevance between that and the astronomical difference in pay between local and foreign ATCOs. Things like that would make the difference between pays reasonably more in one type than the other, but when the difference is unreasonably enormous in the same working environment and same job, that elevates the reason for that difference to a whole new level. If I, for example, lets say go to work in a job in the UK and do the same job in a workplace with the locals in there, I would never, ever, get paid more than them, and we all not that. I don't have the problem that, because the way I see it I do not earn the right to be paid more and have more worth than the people that are actually from there. Also, organizations in there could value their local work force and invest in human factor pretty well, and I really admire that.
The situation in Bahrain could be discriminatory due to political reasons, or could be that foreigners need more pay because of their expenses mentioned above, at the end of the day every person has their own opinion.
And I agree with you that Air traffic control is a global business and I can "pack my bags" anytime I find an opportunity and go somewhere else.
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Old 13th Mar 2019, 23:29
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Cool story but who in YOUR mind is to blame for this?
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Old 14th Mar 2019, 10:54
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bluewolf_85, to an extent what I am saying is that it is normal in the given circumstances. I am not telling you that it is fair or proper, but equally, I'm not sure that I agree that the pay is discriminatory.

Someone in your country has decided that controllers from elsewhere are needed for some reason. In order to attract from elsewhere the type of people that are wanted it is necessary to offer a package in excess of that offered to 'local' employees. This is little more than a statement of fact.

That if you went to the UK and worked for an ANSP there your salary would be the same as any other employee is a reflection of the availability of qualified people and the fact that no-one in the UK has decided that they want or need to find personnel from elsewhere.

But I would suggest that the reasons that it is felt necessary for your country to look elsewhere for staff rather than to train (and retain) local personnel may well involve elements of discrimination
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Old 14th Mar 2019, 21:21
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Another way to look at it, is to compare the situation to renting or leasing a car.

I can lease a Ford Focus for 245/month. This ties me into a 3 year contract. (Similar in some ways to hiring a permanent employee)

On the other hand I can rent one from Sixt, which will cost me 600/month and I can give it back whenever I like. (Similar to hiring a contractor)

It's exactly the same car, the only difference is the terms under which I am getting it, and the flexibility of the contact.

You also need to ask yourself the question, if the ATC service in say Senegal was looking to recruit you on a temporary contract, would you
A.) Want to be paid the same as the local controllers (earning about 1/2 what you do now)
B.) Want to earn the same as you do now (leaving behind a steady job, leaving the family behind, no pension etc.)
C.) Earn more than you do now, to compensate you for living in a foreign land, running 2 houses (one for you, one for the wife and kids back home) lack of pension, and no job security.
​​​​​​
It sounds to me like you would, from your principles, want to choose A, but would then decline the job offer because you are better off staying at home.

Which is the crux of the problem.

I work in the supply of temporary staff, our staff are paid 50% to 150% more than permanent staff doing the same job at our clients sites. This is for people with the same training, working in the same building, from the same country, doing the same job.

It is not a foreigner vs. local thing, it is a contractor vs. permanent employee thing.
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Old 17th Mar 2019, 09:49
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Originally Posted by Russell Kaymer View Post
Cool story but who in YOUR mind is to blame for this?
The Bahrain government is definitely to be blamed for this because we in Bahrain have very educated Gen Y bahraini citizens that have college degrees and are very smart and are well more than qualified to do this job better than any foreigner. Nevertheless, the government refuses to trust the locals for political reasons and insist that they need to bring foreigners to run this job instead, which is a the same thing they have been doing since the 1970's to date. The government refuses to evolve and change its way to accommodate changes in the present and future, so instead of being like: "Oh we have a very different generation now from what we had back then and they are now very educated and knowledgeable so lets just invest in them by training them and providing them with knowledge to run this", instead of having that mentality they're just doing the same thing they've been doing for the past 40-50 years.
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Old 17th Mar 2019, 10:51
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LookingForAJob: "But I would suggest that the reasons that it is felt necessary for your country to look elsewhere for staff rather than to train (and retain) local personnel may well involve elements of discrimination" Amen to that.
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Old 17th Mar 2019, 11:21
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Paul Wilson your explanation of why people working under a contractor get paid more is correct based on your knowledge and experience of your field of work where you work in the supply of TEMPORARY staff. The situation where I am at is anything but temporary. As I mentioned in a reply above that has been going on for the past 4+ decades. Non locals that are working here with their high contract salaries have been here for 10 plus years, some of them even lasted 15 years. When those guys are brought here they do not stay here for the length of a tourist vacation and then just leave. Hell even some local bahrainis they don't stay that long in this job. There were some of them that got frustrated with the situation and left to work in ATC in other countries and others left the aviation field for something else. If this is a temporary situation so what's the time frame for this? How long will this last? Something that has been around for too long does not look to end soon.
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Old 17th Mar 2019, 12:46
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Bluewolf,
That is the problem then, and where you should be focusing your efforts. My field does have people in the same job for years and it is a failure of the organisations that I supply to recruit permanently that leads to it.
Have you considered lobbying for increased training numbers from the local system?
Or organising locally and bidding for the contract yourselves?
​​You will probably still need contractors for a time whilst you get the numbers through a training system, but once you have the numbers through you could bid much lower than any external company.

​​​​​​It is hard when the government seems blind to the issue. Especially when the solution is easy, but just takes a long time! In my field and country I can to some extent understand it, it takes 15 years of training to get our staff qualified, and there are elections every 5 years, so anything the current government does will only benefit the opposition.

You would have thought that under the system of government in Bahrain, at least taking a long term view would be one of the advantages, but it seems not in this case.
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Old 18th Mar 2019, 22:55
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Perhaps if the Bahrain government paid you as a local the same salary and conditions then they wouldn't have a problem recruiting and retaining local ATC. Time to lobby your government together and encourage that change, only by standing together will you achieve that.
Don't blame the foreigners who come to work with you, they are just taking the opportunities that are available, just like anyone else would.
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Old 19th Mar 2019, 16:17
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It is that old imperial bullshit all over again. White, male westeners are of course better payed than darker ones, not to mention the female co-workers, because they are "better". This is why I as white male, would never come to work for any of the desert kingdoms...because I beleive in equality.
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Old 21st Mar 2019, 20:20
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Originally Posted by kontrolor View Post
It is that old imperial bullshit all over again. White, male westeners are of course better payed than darker ones, not to mention the female co-workers, because they are "better". This is why I as white male, would never come to work for any of the desert kingdoms...because I beleive in equality.
Respect to you brother.
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Old 21st Mar 2019, 20:24
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Originally Posted by L'aviateur View Post
Perhaps if the Bahrain government paid you as a local the same salary and conditions then they wouldn't have a problem recruiting and retaining local ATC. Time to lobby your government together and encourage that change, only by standing together will you achieve that.
Don't blame the foreigners who come to work with you, they are just taking the opportunities that are available, just like anyone else would.
I agree with you L'aviateur I can not blame the foreigners because they did not create this situation, the people who created this situation is to blame and that is the government.
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