As a BALPA member and Rep I am often faced with the question 'Why should I be in the union?' and the statement 'It's just a cost.' The reality is that this most frequent question is easy to answer as soon as you understand a little about what a union is or if you have any experience of being part of BALPA. So, to mark the @TUC’s #heartunions week, I will explain why we should all #heartunions.
(See a video here about how easyJet Company Council saved members jobs during COVID).
I myself have been a member of BALPA for more than a decade and a rep for five years. In that time I have benefitted from support, industrially and personally, advice and being part of a community of pilots. I’ve seen BALPA fight to protect the pilot profession and to ensure my job remains rewarding both financially and as a job I’m proud to do.
I can honestly say that without BALPA, COVID-19 would have cost me my job. It's hard to imagine that 750 people at easyJet would have been made redundant, had it not been for the work of BALPA. The reps, staff and members worked together to find solutions that saved jobs and prevented friends and colleagues from facing possible bankruptcy and the associated stresses. It was BALPA, a union of pilots working for pilots, that saved them!
"My union protected me..."
Another first-hand experience was the assistance I received from BALPA whilst working on Flexicrew. I faced bankruptcy due to my professional loan being more than my income for the winter months- I built up debt just paying my mortgage and coming to work, which I couldn't clear during the summer. But BALPA supported me through that and referred me to the BALPA Benevolent Fund. It saved me from taking out an Insolvency Voluntary Agreement (IVA)* that would have ruined my financial history for years to come. My union has protected me during the most challenging times in my career and I am grateful to this unique pilot community for that. It motivated me to become a rep, so I can help others as I was helped in the past. Not everyone's issues will be the same but BALPA will do its best to have your back.
As a group it makes sense that together, we can achieve what a pilot alone cannot. By joining forces to negotiate with employers we collectively bargain for the improvement and maintenance of pay, terms and conditions. We can speak out against commercial pressure and safeguard each other’s rights, fight for flight safety and ensure our united voice influences those in the corridors of power.
At a very basic level it is also important to join a union so you are protected at the worst of times. Who would you call in an emergency? What would you do if a work-related incident meant you faced investigation or disciplinarily action?
Being part of BALPA means you have access to BALPA’s expert Industrial and Legal teams. In recent months, BALPA has assisted numerous members in difficult situations. On the day of the collapse of Flybe, our industrial and careers teams contacted every individual member to offer immediate bespoke advice and support.
Our Legal Services team has supported pilots at an individual level as well as taking on cases that have changed the employment landscape, not only for pilots, but for all working people.
“BALPA was there when I needed it and I felt supported though the whole claim.”
BALPA member Jason Lutz speaking about how BALPA supported him to a court win on bogus self-employment in 2022. View a video about this case here (Link)
BALPA is an organisation of pilots working for pilots and we know the issues that matter to us and affect us. In some cases an issue that affects your career can be influenced by an open line to the CAA or AAIB. Licence and medical issues for instance. We know of no-one currently providing the sort of access or professional support that BALPA does.
At BALPA, the reps who are pilots and members, are supported by a small team of specialist staff who not only use their expertise, but also put their hearts in to helping members. The team is small compared to the huge corporate airlines that BALPA challenges to be better on a daily basis, but it brings a wealth of knowledge and experience. BALPA relies on member subscriptions to operate- but boy does it get a return. The pay rises and benefits I’ve received during my career have more than paid for my subs, so that's why I am happy to pay it forward for the next generation of pilots to follow me.
I know from my own experience that I gain far more from the access to the BALPA community, with its legal expertise, industrial and personal support and much more, than it costs. And I’m not the only one who has had that experience.
“I would also like to take this opportunity to thank BALPA, the easyJet Company Council, the Officers, the Administrators, the Specialists, and all the rest of the BALPA staff; as I will be forever grateful to BALPA for saving my job and the job of a lot of my colleagues in easyJet during the 2020 redundancies negotiations. As huge of a work this was, this is not overshadowing the rest of the tremendous work BALPA has done (and is still continuing to do) during my membership, such as the recent suppression of the forced upgrade to a part-time contract when moving to the First Officer rank. It made me proud to be a member of such an association.”
- BALPA easyJet pilot
“BALPA campaigned hard to remove the PPF compensation cap, as a result my pension is substantially higher than it otherwise would have been.”
- Ex-Monarch member
“In the aftermath of Norwegian UK’s collapse, BALPA helped ex-NAR UK pilots secure alternative employment with Norse Atlantic and negotiated a substantial increase to pay. Thank you BALPA.”
- Norse member
So when I’m asked 'Why should I be in the union?' or I face the statement 'It's just a cost.' My response is easy:
Being part of the BALPA community is not only value for money, it’s something you can’t afford to be without.
* An individual voluntary arrangement (IVA) is a formal and legally binding agreement between you and your creditors to pay back your debts over a period of time. This means it’s approved by the court and your creditors have to stick to it.
Posted on 16 February 2023