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Bonds. Legal or not in UK Law?

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Bonds. Legal or not in UK Law?

Old 9th Apr 2001, 00:39
  #1 (permalink)  
Agaricus bisporus
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Question Bonds. Legal or not in UK Law?

Right now there seems to be a plethora of threads about Bonds. I'd like to put one of these discussions to rest.

We have several "Legal Eagles" on this forum, could I perhaps request their assistance here?

I was always given to believe that a Training Bond constituted an "Illegal Indenture" in UK law, and was thus fundamentally unenforceable.

Is this so?

If not, is there any other question over the legality of such an agreement?

And to the folks that flippantly say, "You signed it, you're held by it", WRONG!!! If it aint legal in the first place there's no obligation at all.

So over to the Legal xperts. What do you think?
 
Old 9th Apr 2001, 02:11
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HomerSimpson
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back to top....waiting for results....
 
Old 9th Apr 2001, 04:50
  #3 (permalink)  
Raw Data
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Agaricus,

The answer is here (and has been for ages!)

http://www.pprune.org/go.php?go=/pub/gen/bonding.html
 
Old 9th Apr 2001, 17:06
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Captain Mainwaring
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I would be most interested to hear from the lawyers how, if at all, the position has changed now that we have in place a human rights European statutory law. It caused the immediate alteration of the football transfer 'contracts' and would seem to be applicable to our 'bonding' arrangements ?
 
Old 10th Apr 2001, 02:29
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life's a riot
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hmmmmmmm
yes, could someone answer Capt Mainwaring cos I would have thought that the ruling has changed too.

lots of love
 
Old 10th Apr 2001, 02:34
  #6 (permalink)  
Raw Data
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Why not just ask BALPA (assuming you are a member), I'm sure they know the answer.
 
Old 10th Apr 2001, 04:12
  #7 (permalink)  
FNG
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The changes to the football transfer system were driven by European Union law on free movement of workers and Competition (in the business sense, rather than the FA cup sense). They have nothing to do with the Human Rights Convention, which is a product of the Council of Europe, a body entirely distinct from the EU. It is doubtful that the Human Rights Act would affect the legal position on bond agreements as in general it does not deal with socio-economic rights. Having said that, BALPA might want to update their advice as the law on restraint of trade moves about even more than my airspeed on final.
 
Old 10th Apr 2001, 13:28
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NorthernSky
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There's an important issue on which I would like to seek opinion, both from legal professionals who may wish to contribute, and from colleagues who have read the BALPA paper and have a view.

Reading the BALPA paper, one is drawn to understand that proof of 'Consideration' is vital to the proving of a case.

Now, I contend that the consideration offered by airlines is not necessarily of value. Pilots are employed to fly, and I would say that the type of aircraft flown is of little consequence, beyond the fact that some people prefer one manufacturer's product over another's, or have a particular yen for turboprops or jets, or whatever.

So, airlines are disingenuous in seeking to place significant value on type rating training. They choose the equipment, and they employ pilots to fly it. The fact that their equipment is different to other peoples' is not of consequence, other than for the fact that this gives rise to the need to train pilots on the specific type, and this is a responsibility they took on when deciding to operate aircraft.

The argument about taking experience elsewhere is similarly open to criticism. Pilots are assessed most often on experience, that is, hours flown on class of equipment, rather than specific type. I believe that very few pilots would succeed in finding employment straight from a simulator course, on the grounds that they were 'competent' on type - a potential employer would most likely wish to carry out further training.

Moreover, I use the word 'class' specifically to highlight that, if a company operating a 50T EFIS twin-jet is recruiting, then pilots who have flown 737, 747, 757, 767, 777, A300, A320, A330, A340, F70/100, BAe146, etc., might all be suitable candidates, the important criteria being 'hours on EFIS jets'.

Thus, pilots gain credibility and experience of value in the employment market by doing their jobs flying aircraft, and not by having particular type ratings.

My argument could be illustrated most clearly by an airline operating the only examples of a particular type, and yet seeking to bond their pilots for the training on it!

Over to you.....

------------------
'Brighten my Northern Sky' Nick Drake R.I.P.

[This message has been edited by NorthernSky (edited 10 April 2001).]
 
Old 10th Apr 2001, 15:53
  #9 (permalink)  
InFinRetirement
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This is an ever emotive subject that few, if any, try to understand, or are willing to understand since they are, apparently, tied to the apron strings of the airline they signed up with, and after a period of time they don't like it and want to spread their wings still further. Nothing wrong with that but what about the airline?

Firstly, the legalities of a training bond have been tried and tested in court and the first case was in about 1986, and the plaintiff lost. The BALPA paper was drawn up, not by learned gentlemen I seem to remember. In any event BALPA did NOT support anyone that I re-call in a case against an airline.

I think it was BM that first drew up a contract that included a bond in about 1984. I used a similar copy in 1986. This document stated that a bond would last for a period of three (3) years. The cost of training would reduce by one third on each anniversary of the contract and the pilot would return any monies due for the final year on a pro-rata basis. In practice this was never enforced with such a small amount of time to the end of the contract.

Why was it necessary to draw up such a contract? Well, the answer lies in the cost of operating aircraft, the people who train, the fixed costs, the direct operating costs, simulators and CAA charges. These charges, back in the early to middle 80's, equated to around 10,000 for a B737-200. Probably double that now!

The original problem left a sour taste in the mouth. I have experienced pilots coming to my airlines, getting trained at our expense, get a good number of hours in their log books and then decide to leave. At best it was cynical, at worst it was tantamount to fraud, simply using a small airline as a stepping stone to a large one. In itself nothing wrong with that, it's actually bound to happen, but when it happens within a few short months it is grossly unfair on the airlines. It was then, in the early 80's, that the bond was born. The airlines could not afford to have pilots come and go in this way.

The bond met with some resistance everywhere but it was never going to go away, because of a FEW rip-off pilots. Not all of course, for there were very many who were thoroughly honest and loyal and I was able to rely of them completely - that just left the selfish ones. Funny! to this day I can re-call every name of those that cost my companies over 100,000 in 5 years!

However, in today's climate and in the light of today's costs, it is well nigh impossible to get a job in which you do not have to be bonded or contracted for the cost for your training. Often as much as 25,000 these days. And why not? Why should another airline benefit from the cost of your training? Why should you personally benefit from free training. What are you thinking of if you take that particular view? Selfishness and the thought of working for a a major probably. Well this is one example where your life has to be controlled for a while. It doesn't hurt, you are still flying, so what's the problem? Mostly that the airline you work for now IS that stepping stone you badly wanted - only you couldn't say that at your interview could you? So I am afraid you have to face up to pay-back time.

The fact is, that too many pilots took mean advantage of airlines in the 80's and the price today is that you pay back the costs of your training you received if you decide to leave. That's fair, and it is right.

There is NOT ONE SINGLE ARGUMENT that anyone can voice against bonding. It's almost impossible. Why? Because I doubt that there is one airline or one firm who would be prepared to allow you to TAKE 25,000 out of their bank account, so that you can gain the pleasures of a type rated licence or other qualification you are not required to pay for.

I have known pilots who paid for their own type rating and thereby reduced the cost of their training considerably. But these days it will still cost around 12-15,000. Most people can't do that so they rely on the airline.

For me, that says it all, if you rely on the airline, they should be able to rely on you!

As far as the football transfer system is concerned. It doesn't apply. You might like to think that it does, but the EU is actually quite fair, and to take a blanket view of that particular piece of legislation is like walking around with your eyes and mind closed.

In my humble view the the bond is here to stay. That is right.




[This message has been edited by InFinRetirement (edited 10 April 2001).]
 
Old 10th Apr 2001, 19:17
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B clam
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Fair point. However, what if the bond doesn't reduce on a pro-rata basis like my company's. Is it fair to demand the full bond if you have been working for the company for 20 or so months? I know I signed the contract but I had no choice.
Any views on a non-reducing bond?
 
Old 10th Apr 2001, 20:04
  #11 (permalink)  
The Guvnor
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A non reducing bond isn't fair; and according to the Balpa item, is probably (rightly) unenforceable.
 
Old 10th Apr 2001, 21:04
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InFinRetirement
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B Clam, that is not acceptable, and would be unenforceable (probably in law).

There is a precedent for a reducing bond but your company, or any other company, are applying an unfair restriction that would give them little or no chance of winning an action for the whole amount while you have "worked off" a major part of the bond. That is how it was setup in the first place.

You should request a review of your contract with your company as soon as possible, and should ask that it be adjusted.

Then take it from there.
 
Old 10th Apr 2001, 21:54
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Flanker
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InFinRetirement

I'm afraid I disagree with your view on bonding.It does in my opinion have its failures, in fact the requirement to bond anticipates the failure to retain the employee.

Contrary to your view not everyone takes a job to gain some type rating.My bone of contention is that it is a deal I have no choice but to accept if I want to work in my chosen(and hard earned)profession.Apart from BA what is the airline alternative in the UK?

Actually I can accept being bonded, but only if the job is as advertised by the employers.For me Britannia was such an example and if I had left during my first three years I would have had no argument with paying them any amount owing.

Unfortunately this is not always so and it is quite possible to find yourself in an untenable situation,shackled financially having taken the job in good faith.This cannot be a healthy state of affairs for either party.Been there done that!

I think it is important to recognise that in fact there can be problems as things stand.I look forward to the time when a little more integrity from both sides makes the problem redundant.
 
Old 10th Apr 2001, 22:14
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Raw Data
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Flanker-

If you find yourself in an untenable position, there are legal remedies, for example constructive dismissal or breach of contract. If there are any factors other than a simple desire to leave, the company would in all likelihood have trouble enforcing the bond in any case. Even if they do manange to get a ruling in their favour, it is usually possible to negotiate the rate of repayment.

However, I have to agree that changes in a job (for example an enforced base, or type, change) can significantly change the acceptability of a job and in this case, bonds should be cancelled as soon as the job changes.

Personally I think bonds are immoral. Far better to recognise the training costs in your organisation, and budget accordingly. Does Microsoft bond its' highly-trained employees? I think not! They simply recognise that if they fail to satisfy the aspirations of their employees, the employees will leave and that is simply the competitive nature of the industry. In aviation, it is certainly true that smaller companies will always experience high throughput, but there are other ways of dealing with that problem.

Even if you accept bonding when joining a company on a new type, I cannot think of any justification for re-bonding when changing types. Such an employee has already proven their loyalty, and that should be recognised.

At the end of the day, bonding is an unimaginative (and very British) way of dealing with the problem. It is also, I believe, punitive and the sooner it stops, the better.

The worst sort, are of course the bank loan type. These should be outlawed immediately!!!
 
Old 10th Apr 2001, 22:33
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Arkroyal
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Well said Raw Data.

I feel that an enforced uprooting and type change should carry no additional bonding. If life becomes impossible, it will not be the fault of the pilot, and a towering bond to repay will hardly help.

A contract, however is a two way street, and if the employer breaks any of its provisions, (as they do every day) then the whole thing could arguably be junked, including the bond. Thoughts on that, anyone?
 
Old 10th Apr 2001, 23:58
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Raw Data
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Arkroyal-

The main problem there is that most employment contracts are pretty vague (except when it comes to disciplinary procedures), which makes it hard to establish a breach of contract. If you have a clear case, good idea to test it in the courts/tribunals.

I once had to take a company to a tribunal, and was surprised how user-friendly and straightforward it was. Of course I had a pair of BALPA lawyers with me, which increased my confidence somewhat!
 
Old 11th Apr 2001, 00:52
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InFinRetirement
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InFinRetirement
_____________________________________________
"the requirement to bond anticipates the failure to retain the employee."
_____________________________________________

Not so in my view Flanker. It merely places on record that you have received a rather expensive form of training and that if you decide to depart suddenly - you have to return their costs - PROPORTINATE to the amount of time you have worked there - but NOT in excess of three years.
_____________________________________________
"Contrary to your view not everyone takes a job to gain some type rating."
_____________________________________________

I don't think I said that. What I said was that a type rating is the result of taking a job with the airline. The inevitable consequence is that your training incurred the company a very large expense - that they would wish to protect. It is not unreasonable to do that.

I don't think I can go into each individual airlines'principals on this, but it is up to you the employee to ensure that what you sign is what you want. Finding yourself in an untenable situation is in most cases self inflicted and a lawyer should have been consulted before signing.

If on the other hand you can show that you have been "shackled financially, and thus placed in and untenable position" you have recourse to law and you should use it. I would have no truck with an airline who treated a pilot in such a fashion and would, as I did, when we had an association formed to protect ourselves, voice a very strong objection to attempts to ignore the basic rights of pilots. This is on record.

See Flanker, you have chosen the word integrity. A good word, which BOTH sides should use but some airlines have been kicked in the teeth and integrity goes out of the window. Integrity won't make the problem redundant, as you say, but honesty and fairness will.

Raw Data raises the question of company law in a different way and which doesn't apply. Constructive dismisal is part of unfair dismissal, where a Tribunal is set-up to deal with it and it can only go to Tribunal if a company is doing it's best to try and remove you by fair means or foul - that is Unfair Dismissal. Nothing to do with a bond - they want you to stay. If they did try and get rid of you, you would be the lucky one, home free with no financial encumbrances.

Breach of contract is another matter for a lawyer to look at. But contracts are easy to break so you have to be careful.

I believe Raw Data has it wrong when it comes to hoping that bonding will one day cease. In general terms I would actually have to agree with him. But in commercial terms it would cripple an airline who didn't, for arguments sake, get new entrants to the airline bonded. Note I did not mention those already employed there being offered change of type. I believe it is wrong and cynical for any airline to re-bond a pilot who is being re-typed - that is their decision and theirs alone, and they should bear any costs. I know of several airlines who steer well clear of this hot potato and quite right too.

I also don't agree about the bank loans that RD dislikes so much. I know of at least four people, very intellectual people, who have recently taken out loans against their property. Or have arranged other types of loan so that they can begin THEIR careers for their licences. When they get a job, they WILL be bonded, but they will have that job! How would they do it otherwise. I did the same thing many years ago and it was all there was. Saving was out the question. Only the fast track was acceptable.

The system I would like to see adopted is one of mutual agreement between the airline and pilot. One where absolute agreement is reached on how to best to resolve a difference of opinion BEFORE he actually agrees to start work with the airline. The basis of the contract would be that he must stay for at least ONE year with his 'bond' interest free. If he wants to leave after that period it must be agreed that a repayment scheme is set-up where he has to repay part of the remaining balance before he leaves, and the rest within ONE year. It's not an ideal solution but it is one that is fair. It should also be drawn up by opposing solicitors.

However, I would have a bet that one side or the other will try and bust it wide open, if it suits them. That's the nature of this particular beast!


 
Old 11th Apr 2001, 02:28
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Raw Data
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InFin -

Sorry, can't agree with you. Name three other industries where very expensive training is bonded (for example Maritime companies, computer companies etc).

>> But in commercial terms it would cripple an airline who didn't, for arguments sake, get new entrants to the airline bonded. <<

Doesn't seem to cripple British Airways very much, does it?

>> I also don't agree about the bank loans that RD dislikes so much. I know of at least four people, very intellectual people, who have recently taken out loans against their property. Or have arranged other types of loan so that they can begin THEIR careers for their licences. When they get a job, they WILL be bonded, but they will have that job! <<

Not entirely clear what you mean here, but the bank loan-type bond is just a cynical tool that the airline uses to ensure they get their money. They don't want to get involved in a dispute with a pilot that they could conceivably lose, and they know that by the time the issue goes through the courts, the pilot will be faced with trying to recover monies from the airline- but HE WILL STILL HAVE A BANK LOAN. Getting the money from the airline will involve further court involvement, the cumulative cost of which will almost certainly be more than the figure being sought. This, apparently, constitutes justice.

Also, the existence of a bonding loan can have very adverse effects when trying to raise finance, for example a mortgage. I had to do this recently, and it took a major effort to get a mortgage lender to see that I wasn't actually paying the money each month- even the risk that I might have to one day gave them the jitters. The effect a bonding loan has on creditworthiness alone makes it immoral.

Finally, a type-rating constitutes on-the-job training. It is not a pre-requisite for employment. Once again, show me another non-aviation company that bonds for that sort of training.

Everybody accepts that they will have to pay for their licence, unless of course they get a cadetship or have a rich daddy. That has always been the case- but bonds are a relatively new phenomenon.

Finally, constructive dismissal does apply in the context in which I mentioned it. If a company varies the actual work conditions without changing the Terms and Conditions of employment (for example a forced base change or some similar act), then constructive dismissal may apply. I have once seen a person go for that (and get it) in those circumstances.

The point is, that if a crew member has such a change forced on them, it may well do significant damage to their private lives. This was a standard Air UK trick a few years ago- base pilots in one place, but make them live in another. Now, if a pilot rightly wants to preserve his marriage, but cannot for whatever reason just up and move to the new location (kids in school, wifes employment, unable to sell house, whatever), what can he do? If he has a bond, not a whole lot!

Unfortunately, the company line that you espouse is, as I mentioned, a typically unimaginative British way of dealing with the problem. The Americans long ago realised the benefits of the carrot approach, but the only approach the Brit airlines can manage is the stick approach. A sad commentary on British industry in general.
 
Old 11th Apr 2001, 04:01
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InFinRetirement
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InFin -
Sorry, can't agree with you. Name three other industries where very expensive training is bonded (for example Maritime companies, computer companies etc).

Army, Navy and Air Force. You want out you buy yourself out, and there are a few major business's that do have bonds. I have concentrated on this answer, and I WILL come back to you on that one.

>> But in commercial terms it would cripple an airline who didn't, for arguments sake, get new entrants to the airline bonded. <<

Doesn't seem to cripple British Airways very much, does it?

Well it wouldn't would it, and is therefore an unrealistic analogy. But had you been around in the 80's when the problem first surfaced it had a dire effect on several operations - some of whom went under.

>> I also don't agree about the bank loans that RD dislikes so much. I know of at least four people, very intellectual people, who have recently taken out loans against their property. Or have arranged other types of loan so that they can begin THEIR careers for their licences. When they get a job, they WILL be bonded, but they will have that job! <<

Not entirely clear what you mean here, but the bank loan-type bond is just a cynical tool that the airline uses to ensure they get their money. They don't want to get involved in a dispute with a pilot that they could conceivably lose, and they know that by the time the issue goes through the courts, the pilot will be faced with trying to recover monies from the airline- but HE WILL STILL HAVE A BANK LOAN. Getting the money from the airline will involve further court involvement, the cumulative cost of which will almost certainly be more than the figure being sought. This, apparently, constitutes justice.

What I mean is that the fast track method to achieving a licence is preferable to hour building. However, it will require that a loan is arranged - in most cases. Certainly in the four instances I described.

As far as a bonded loan is concerned, and as you describe it I have to say I am unfamiliar with it and on the face of it agree that it appears to be somewhat unsavoury. Especially as it can affect your ability to raise funds for a mortgage. I shall avoid that one as I don't know enough about it.


Finally, a type-rating constitutes on-the-job training. It is not a pre-requisite for employment. Once again, show me another non-aviation company that bonds for that sort of training.

Absolutely not RD. If you want a job and it costs the company 25,000 to train you and five other Captains and six First Officers, 6 crews per aircraft, you seem to suggest that the company should accept this as on the job training. EasyJet for example have ordered 32 B737-700's = 384 pilots - no bonding? I don't think so. That is naive RD, and unlike you. You cannot expect a company to risk that kind of money without some safeguard. This is business we are talking about not a play place for pilots. Pilots and the company are an integral part of each other, one doesn't work without the other and, therefore, it is a joint agreement and effort - at least the way I would like to see it - to make the airline profitable. But both sides have to be responsible about it. Arguing about the inevitable BEFORE you get a job is about as useful as nailing yourself to a fence.

Everybody accepts that they will have to pay for their licence, unless of course they get a cadetship or have a rich daddy. That has always been the case- but bonds are a relatively new phenomenon.

If you can call 22 years a new phenomenon yes it is, but it was some pilots who caused the problem in the first place. Take it from me RD, it is a fact. Not all, as I was careful to say before, but it was caused by greed and a 'romantic' need to fly the jets for a big airline.

Finally, constructive dismissal does apply in the context in which I mentioned it. If a company varies the actual work conditions without changing the Terms and Conditions of employment (for example a forced base change or some similar act), then constructive dismissal may apply. I have once seen a person go for that (and get it) in those circumstances.

An employer is entitled to change Terms and Conditions of employment. Read the many times it has ended in the High Court, just go to your local library and have fun - you will be gobsmacked. And this includes the right of an employer to move his operation/business to another location. And if that location is further than 15 miles from the last he must first offer redundancy to those affected. But that cannot be construed as constructive dismissal, since they gave due notice, as did Air UK because I was at the heart of that for a time. The bond however, is negated IF the person was sensible enough to ensure that he would not be liable. And, of course, the very nature of the business means that your aeroplanes go where they will do most good for the company, not I am afraid for the benefit of pilots and their families. This a real world situation here RD and your argument has, from start to finish, been one-sided. Understandable. Whereas mine has been one of seeing both sides - which is why I was always considered fair to all the pilots I employed. A considerable number. A few are PPRuNers, I'll give you their names if you like.

The point is, that if a crew member has such a change forced on them, it may well do significant damage to their private lives. This was a standard Air UK trick a few years ago- base pilots in one place, but make them live in another. Now, if a pilot rightly wants to preserve his marriage, but cannot for whatever reason just up and move to the new location (kids in school, wifes employment, unable to sell house, whatever), what can he do? If he has a bond, not a whole lot!

Unfortunately, the company line that you espouse is, as I mentioned, a typically unimaginative British way of dealing with the problem. The Americans long ago realised the benefits of the carrot approach, but the only approach the Brit airlines can manage is the stick approach. A sad commentary on British industry in general.

Ah see RD, this is where what I espouse is because I am British and you are a Kiwi, we did something wrong did we? Come on mate, you are here now and you have to accept the British way. I don't like some of the things the Kiwi's and the Americans do but we do what we do because we are what we are. I never did use the stick approach and although there were those that did I think in general they don't. Your firm certainly don't. Tarring everyone with the same brush is a bad mistake, making a difference between Kiwi's and British working in the same environment is unfortunate at best.....but you could go fly in America I suppose - I did once, it was great!
 
Old 11th Apr 2001, 05:04
  #20 (permalink)  
tilii
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InFin

One of your comments to Raw Data was to assert that his arguments were “one-sided” followed by your statement that yours were spoken from a position of “seeing both sides -which is why I was always considered fair to all the pilots I employed”. Well, I guess there is nothing quite like blowing your own trumpet.

When RD asked you to state 3 other industries where expensive training was NOT bonded, you replied “Army, Navy and Air Force”. Come on, now. RD was not referring to training from raw, totally inexperienced recruit to operational readiness with provision by the employer of food, accommodation etcetera, even the clothes on the back of the trainee. Nor was he referring to training for defence of the realm; training that, in the case of pilots at least, costs millions. Compare like with like and come up with 3 other industries, if you can.

With respect to the BA analogy, you said: “But had you been around in the 80's when the problem first surfaced it had a dire effect on several operations - some of whom went under.” Please tell us to which “problem” you refer, and then explain how bonding might, in your view, have saved such companies from going under. I too can think of several companies that went under in the era to which you refer. However, I cannot think of one that went under because it had failed to bond its aircrew. Most went under simply because they deserved little better given the way they were set up in the first instance and then subsequently run (survival of the fittest and all that).

You plead ignorance as to the “bonded (bank) loan”, admitting that it sounds an unsavoury practice, then later suggest that RD’s employer does not use the “stick” approach. Clearly, then, you either don’t know who RD’s employers are or you are indeed ignorant as to current bonding methods. For the record, I think you will find that RD’s employer does bond its pilots via the bank loan method, and it bonds in very large sums given the types it operates.

You know, it really does worry me to read posts like yours that talk about pilots “wanting a job” as if that is abnormal, then following it up with assertions as to pilots and airlines being “an integral part of each other” and that “one doesn't work without the other and, therefore, it is a joint agreement and effort … to make the airline profitable”. As I’ve said on another similar thread, this is certainly, as you say, a two way street in that employers need the pilots and vice versa.

However, it is not the pilots’ responsibility to make airlines profitable. There is a thin line between this assertion and the negative commercial pressure that might just drive an airline beyond safety and into oblivion. Pilots should never concentrate on profitability. The day they do is the day it would be wise to avoid flying.

You are, of course, quite right to speak of an employer’s right to change Terms and Conditions of Employment. You did, however, omit to mention the fact that such changes cannot be made unilaterally without constituting a breach of contract.

Finally, I am concerned by your reference to RD’s nationality as if it has some bearing on the validity of what he says. That “we do what we do because we are what we are” is not a valid justification for the way that our airlines currently handle the bonding issue. If it is, then it speaks volumes about precisely “what we are” (enough said, I think). Surely you can do better than that, can’t you?
 

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