A NOTE ON PILOTS UNION
I am writing this note in first person because I am sharing my vision, though there are people with whom I have been discussing things, most of them pilots. But I am putting it in 1st person because I take responsibility for setting this up. When I take responsibility, I also have accountability and there would be deliverable that could be measured.
Our idea of a Union is like an organisation that is disruptive & political. What if I tell you that it could be like a corporate body with a professional Board of Directors and specific agendas and working like a ‘service provider’. An organisation that is willing to work with the Regulator (DGCA) and the bread providers (Airline Management) and yet be ASSERTIVE when the need so arises.
Yes, it’s not easy. But let me tell you a simple secret. The secret is to change our mind set first. Are you all willing to do so? The first change is that in and within the Union, our thinking should change from ‘I, me, myself’ to WE and US. These are little changes that I expect you to bring to the table.
The first thing you agree to do when you join this Union is that you will be WILLING to STAND UP for your BROTHER / SISTER.
You agree to follow the rules and be fair and reasonable in your conduct towards each other, to the employer and to the regulator.
The above two most fundamental rules go hand in hand. When I ask you to start thinking in terms of ‘we’ I am also telling you all that we will not ‘justify’ any wrongdoing by any of the members. If something is wrong, it is wrong. Just because we are a group we will not force anyone to accept it as right. The reason is simple. When you are clean, when you have nothing to hide, you can be loud.
For eg. If any of the members here has got a licence by ‘corrupt’ means and his employer takes action, this Union will not stand up for him/her. However, if any employer harasses any one of you here just because you refuse to do anything that is contrary to law or unfair to your brother/sister, this UNION will stand up and defend you.
For anything professional, we need to be ready to pay. When I say professional Board, you need to be willing to pay them their due. For eg. I am going to be doing this full time and are you willing to put a price on my time. For eg. I have 18 years of experience and today in the corporate world I could be worth 3 crores a year and in private practice I could earn a lot more. But I would like to put a reasonable figure of Rs.4 lakhs a month. Are you willing to pay it. The other professionals on Board (say some highly respected retired pilots) when they render some service, are you willing to pay them for their time like a honorarium for attending meetings / doing our work etc.
Are you willing to pay for legal issues as and when there is a need. Just because I am an advocate and I am full time here, do not expect me to take care of legal issue within that amount. That will be separately charged like how law firms charge their clients. There has to be a clear cut statement on what I will do as a full timer. For eg. Negotiating with your employers / DGCA etc can be considered as a part of that work but not when I don my band and gown and go to the court.
Similarly, we need a small office, we need computer / printer / telephone / fax. We need a person who will coordinate things. For eg. I have had 100’s of pilots call me and tell me how the CAR is going to be misused after the order. To function as a professional body, we cannot expect people talking to someone on the Board by dialling on the cell. We need a system where pilots can send e mails and all of this will be collated by a person and put up before the professionals to take a call on the issue. The issue may be individual specific or may affect the whole group.
INSURANCE AND BENEFITS
As an advocate, I would suggest everyone to compulsorily take insurance. I have a good and a live case: A first officer with just about 500 hours called me up and said he was derostered for over a year for an incident. I asked him if his company was paying him and he said ‘just the basic’ which was about Rs.20 K according to him. I asked why he had not opted for insurance, he said he was new, no time, other burdens of loan etc. Let me tell you in clear terms, where your priorities should lie. It has to be to secure yourself because you are in a high risk job. Between a loan that you have to pay and an insurance premium, pay the premium first. Because it will take care of the unforeseen. If you default on a loan, you still get the opportunity of paying it. Insurance if not taken, exposes you to the risk and you have no one else to blame.
I know of how NAG collects funds from others on a case to case basis. But when we have insurance companies willing to provide us insurance against premiums, why should we be dependant. Just take one and be secure. Secure yourself on your strength and not on the benevolence of your brother / sister.
When there are more numbers, the insurance companies offer better schemes and it will have the lowest premium than any one. However, this will take little time as I will discuss the best terms with the companies and the Union will take the responsibility of ensuring that insurance companies do not back out at the time of making payments.
I had a little discussion with a small group of pilots as to how much should be a joining fee and how much should be the monthly/annual subscription fees. When I proposed Rs.30,000 as joining fees / one time payment and Rs.24,000 as annual subscription (Rs.2000 monthly) most in the group told me it is too high and pilots will not join.
I refuse to believe this, because many of you voluntarily paid Rs.25,000 for one single litigation and if all of you believe that this Union can be a force to reckon with and be a professional body with a vision as well as a service provider for you, I am certain that you guys will come up and be willing to pay this small amount from your annual income for a better future.
Unlike the litigation, these funds will be in the account of the union and every penny spent from there will be seen by you guys.
Therefore I believe no pilot will have an issue with paying a small amount of Rs.2000 a month and the one time joining fees to make this union a reality.
I know if we end up having membership of 3000 – 5000 it will be a good amount, but that is where I want to make a difference. We should not go in search of water only when the house is on fire, we should always be flush with funds.
The key to any success is transparency. There will not be any closed door meetings. Even the board meeting will and can be live telecast on web / social media /live streaming.
Every e-mail of members will be replied to. Every issue raised will be deliberated and action on it will be informed uploaded on the site.
THE CORE OF THE UNION
To bring this to reality, I have seen every pilot to belong to one class. This means that there will be General Aviation Pilots, Commercial Pilots, Helicopter pilots, amateur pilots etc
I suggest we have a 5 professionals on Board (one of who will be atleast in the initial one year be working full time which if later need be can be raised to 2 or 3). 2 members each from the sub committees representing every commercial airline, General Aviation, Helicopter pilots.
THE VISION FOR THE UNION
The most primary need is to be a voice heard by the Regulator (the DGCA). No Rules that affect a pilot will come into existence without the consent of the Union. This is the most basic need.
To be a force to reckon with the Airline management is the secondary reason. But if you see the relation, it is SYMBIOTIC in nature. Airlines cannot exist without pilots nor can pilots exist without the Airlines. So the basic understanding is that this relation has to be nurtured and has to be based on twin foundations of DIGNITY and RESPECT for each other. The profit motive of an Airline cannot be at the risk of lives, health or family of a pilot. Similarly, just because we are a force to reckon with will not make us fight the Airline management for ‘frivolous’ reasons.
For eg: One year rule. The DGCA has no role to play here. It is obvious that Airline Management is the one behind it. There is a free market and no pilot can be forced to remain in any company for more than 3 months on resignation. Bond amount, if any, should reflect the actual expenses and not used as an arm twisting tool.
All issues of pilots need to be communicated with the public. Today if a pilot lands in lucknow instead of delhi, the public is furious and the attack is on the pilot. How or why are the public blaming the pilot who just saved their lives? The reason is simple, they are unaware of the threat to their lives. So it is necessary that we communicate with the public. They need to know what it is and we will end up spending money on advertisements and promotions on social media.
DISRUPTION OF WORK
There will be no ‘disruption of work’. Disruption of work will be the last option and will be done only after giving ample time and advertising that decision in public. No prolonged disruption in any case. It will be just a show of strength on one given day. Not a single aircraft will fly on a day.
The Union will always make representation and give ample time for the Authorities to take action. For eg. The following issues need to be taken care of within one year of our notice otherwise we declare a no fly day (this is just an example) say on 1 April 2019.
No pilot should be derostered for more than 3 months for an ‘incident’ and more than six months for an ‘accident’
Bond of any, should be reasonable and should reflect the actual costs
Leave issues. Sick Leave and all issues related to leave needs to be human.
MY EXIT / PROFESSIONAL BOARD EXIT / THE FUTURE
Once the general issues that cripple the community is identified and resolved, I would take an exit from the Union. If the union is happy by retaining the concept of having professionals, the union may continue it, otherwise even that can exit and the unions can be run through elections as it happens in every union. You guys can take over once the union is stabilised and its general goals achieved.
THE UNION WILL BE APOLITICAL, WILL HAVE VALUES AND THE ONLY AIM IS ‘AVIATION SAFETY’.