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The New Zealand Air Line Pilots' Association Newsletter.

Australian Federation of Air Pilots outlines activity ‘across the ditch’

AFAP’s Executive Director Simon Lutton and Principal Officer Captain Louise Pole.

As well as taking part in the Liberalisation of Airspace panel discussion, the 2017 NZALPA Conference was delighted to welcome representatives from one of its sibling unions from across the Tasman, the Australian Federation of Air Pilots (AFAP), to speak to conference delegates and observers.

Executive Director of AFAP, Simon Lutton, updated members on the current political and industrial situation faced by the 4500 strong AFAP and, to an extent, the 2250 member Australian and International Pilots Association (AIPA), which represents airline pilots working for the international Qantas Group. 

Joined by AFAP Vice President Captain Louise Pole and Safety and Technical Officer Captain Marcus Diamond, Lutton outlined the growth of the organisation as well as its increased skills and training offerings to nine councils, which included those representing helicopter and fixed wing aircrafts.   

The growth of the industrial and professional organisation has meant AFAP is operating a healthy surplus, with offices now open in Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth. The AFAP is also running a Mutual Benefit Fund (MBF), which absorbs GST costs to keep subscription as affordable as possible. 

Internationally, as well as sharing the globalisation and atypical employment challenges with its NZALPA counterparts and others across the International Federation of Air Line Pilots’ Associations (IFALPA), Lutton identified that the industry is facing increased competition from airlines from other jurisdictions, including potential outside competition entering the domestic air travel market. 

Although having sought assurance from the Australian Federal Government that there was no current plan to allow such competition, AFAP is mindful of the union-unfriendly tradition of the present federal leadership, despite not being a member of the Australian Council of Trade Union (ACTU).  

Locally, the AFAP team reported on the waning fortunes of the Virgin Group, down in profits and operating in what Lutton referred to as a “state of flux”. AFAP’s High Court action against Regional Express regarding accommodation and other conditions that could affect cadets and their ICUS status (in command, under supervision); and ongoing litigation with low-budget carrier Jetstar regarding other industrial matters following a settlement with Qantas were also covered. 

In the general aviation space, it seems local helicopter pilots should stay clear of Australia for some time as the end of the ‘Lucky Country’s’ decade-long mining boom damages aviation businesses that grew and depended on the industry for financial survival. However, there continues to be membership growth, with younger fixed-wing pilots joining AFAP through membership awareness efforts and organisational activity. 

Pole, in addition to her AFAP Vice President duties and working as a regional pilot for Sunstate, heads the AFAP’s Women’s Pilot Network. The initiative includes the provision of management training for women. Although internationally only one percent of Qantas pilots are women, female pilots represent between 5-10 percent of those airlines flying inter-state or regionally. 

Other AFAP initiatives have included a study of cabin air quality, active safety and training exercises such as runway safety, the implementation of an Instant Response Programme with 24-hour coverage and cognisant of the unique environment in which Australian pilots operate, wildlife at airports training. 

The relationship between Australia and New Zealand remains close, with Lutton explaining the Trans-Tasman Mutual Recognition Arrangement (TTMRA), as part of the Closer Economic Relations policy, was the underpinning of the Australia-New Zealand relationship. The agreement, of course, is seen as a powerful driver of regulatory co-ordination and integration between the two nations. 

More informally, Lutton praised the sharing of ideas and experiences and NZALPA’s pioneering efforts in assisting with both the beginning of AFAP’s Membership Assistance Programme and Human Intervention Motivation Study (HIMS). In the area of member assistance, Diamond said that local pilot fatigue regulations had been in review for some time and a recent survey ‘barometer’ of membership showed this still to be a concerning issue. Meanwhile, a network of welfare representatives operated to assist members. Immediate welfare payments were made available, in addition to the MBF, to support members’ families in the wake of serious accidents. 

The AFAP and AIPA industrial and professional organisations broke away from Qantas over an industrial dispute in the late 1980s. According to Lutton, while a joint organisational approach is desirable, it is not likely. However, both continue to work on common areas of interest and joint government and regulatory submissions where appropriate. In the meantime, AFAP, like NZALPA, is looking to  increase its strategic communications and lobbying efforts, particularly as the challenges and opportunities associated with Open Skies and other globalisation policies begin to impact on its  membership. 

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