Whatever job you do, there is always the possibility that you may run into problems at work. Very often minor issues can be sorted out quickly by an informal chat. However, if the problem is more serious, an informal chat may well not be able to help you resolve the problem and either side may wish to take up a more formal approach. This situation is where union representation will be of assistance to you.
I have been a full time union official for nearly 30 years, with the last 15 years spent with BALPA. During that time I have been asked to represent and assist members in a huge number of varying disciplinary and grievances. I have represented our members at all levels from a simple informal chat with management, to more formal procedures, and right through the spectrum to appeals against dismissal. Together with my four other National Officer colleagues at BALPA House, we spend a large chunk of our time advising, supporting and representing members in disciplinary and grievance settings in any single calendar year. It really is a significant support element of BALPA membership.
There are many and various situations where BALPA does offer member advice, support, and representation; these include, but are not limited to, the following: disciplinary, grievance, performance related issues, capability issues, sickness absence management issues, licencing issues, medical matters, injury at work, and contractual issues. BALPA’s 250+ pilot representatives and 45 HQ staff members are fully trained and experienced in representing members in such circumstances.
Disciplinaries come in many different guises. One of the overriding elements in any case is that when someone makes an allegation, you will need some support through the process. BALPA is there and ready to support members through what is usually a very difficult time and what for many can be very stressful and traumatic.
One particularly worrying area where we are seeing an increase in representation and assistance in employment matters is social media. It would appear that employers right across the industry are monitoring social media for adverse comments about their business. Most, if not all, airlines have members of staff who monitor social media on a regular basis. They usually look for comments made by passengers and customers but it is increasingly common for employees to become identified. These types of cases are very difficult to successfully defend simply because the evidence against the individual is usually there for the world to see.
One such case saw BALPA represent a senior captain who had been employed by the same airline for many years. He had been accused of making inappropriate and potentially derogatory comments on social media about the company. By the time he called for BALPA assistance the process was well underway and he had been suspended from work and a date had been set for a formal disciplinary hearing. Given the extremely serious nature of the allegations he faced, countless hours’ worth of case preparation time were undertaken prior to the hearing. The member could well have been looking at having his employment terminated and quite possibly without notice.
After a lengthy hearing, where every shard of evidence was under review, a case was made by BALPA officials to senior management. Thankfully the member kept his job, but was given a final written warning, to stay on file for a maximum of 12 months. It was a close call, but with BALPA assistance we were able to deliver a positive outcome for the member in difficult circumstances.
A grievance differs in the sense that the complaint is one you want to make directly. Your employer or a work colleague may be in the wrong, they may have failed to meet their responsibilities toward you or they may have even treated you unfairly. A grievance can usually be made using the organisation’s grievance procedure, but again you will need the expert guidance and support from BALPA.
Only recently I was contacted by a member who was in receipt of what he described as an illegal roster. Having reviewed the roster myself it became apparent that the agreement we had in place with the company had been violated. Thanks to the additional expert advice of my scheduling specialist colleagues at BALPA House, we were soon fully on top of the brief.
We quickly advised the member that his roster was not compliant, outside the scope of the company agreement, and that he should in the first instance raise the pertinent points with his crewing officer. Unfortunately, this first step was ignored by the company and so we assisted the member in raising a formal grievance, with BALPA providing full support and representing the member at stage one.
Just three days later, between the Director of Flight Operations and BALPA representatives, we had resolved the issue amicably and no further formal grievance would be necessary. An hour later I took a phone call from the member who was delighted with the result and the support from his union.
Across the seven companies where I represent members, I currently have the following live cases:
Three disciplinary cases
Three formal rostering grievance cases.
One grievance of intimidation
Two members seeking Loss of Licence.
One termination of employment due to injury sustained at work.
Two members on long term sick who need return to work support.
My four other National Officers will be involved in similar numbers across the 23 companies BALPA represents, along with a whole host of more complex cases in the hands of our Legal Services Sub-Committee. This area of support from BALPA is one of the most crucial and, unlike having to lobby and/or rely on the role of regulatory bodies, it is one area where we can directly make a difference to the lives of our members.
If you have any doubt whatsoever then my advice is that you should contact your BALPA representatives. Please do not try to go it alone. If you are unable to get hold of a pilot representative, then contact BALPA HQ on 020 8476 4000 and you will be guided to the most appropriate member of staff for some advice.
Let’s hope that you never need to do this but it’s nice to know that there are fully trained and experienced BALPA representatives standing by to help you when you most need it.