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Safety Management Systems & Collectve Bargaining Agreements

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Examination of numerous collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) suggests the conclusion that they are useful in promoting safety. Some features of the still-born Safety Management System effort are addressed in CBAs.


SMSs mandate a non-punitive reporting system. All CBAs define grievance procedures. When employees know that their jobs are protected by such clauses in labour contracts they are much more likely to act and speak about matters that may be contrary to their employer’s interest. Some examples are pilot refusal to: load their aircraft with as much as they think it can lift and then attempt to fly; fly in marginal weather; fly when fatigued; accept overtime requests; accept requests to extend tours of duty. Grievance clauses in CBAs are more than company policy. They are part of a contract to which the subscribing parties are legally bound.


SMSs mandate fatigue management systems. One CBA studied provides for a comprehensive FMS as part of the CBA. This FMS bears no resemblance to the flight duty time limitations of the CARs. It demands about half the working time that the CARs do. In any event, the Canada Labour Code almost certainly trumps the CARs when it comes to working hours and overtime pay. A confidentiality request precludes making public the location of this particular CBA, but if the reader digs deeply enough, he will likely find it.


CBAs ensure that the wages and other benefits enjoyed by every employee are public knowledge. When individual employees make their own deals with management, it is bound to lead to unrest. The frequent result is that some workers work too hard for too little pay and some workers don’t work hard enough for too much pay. CBAs explicitly define everyone’s wages. All know what all are paid. Disgruntled employees are likely less safe.


Some seem to think that a daily, monthly or annual wage cannot be translated into an hourly wage for the purpose of computing overtime. In fact this is easily done. If a pilot or engineer is paid $400 a day, his hourly is $50. If he works more than 8 hours in a day, he is entitled to overtime at time and a half. Even if averaging is applied, if the pilot works more than 48 hours in the averaged week, he is entitled to overtime.


Complex remuneration arrangements are always amenable to reduction to an hourly rate. Some arrangements include flight pay, away from base pay, isolation pay and perhaps other incentives, but in every case an hourly wage can be determined.


Canadian Helicopters is currently advertising for a base pilot in Grande Prairie. The possible annual wage ranges from about $31k to $44k. Flight pay is $56 per hour. If he is paid $41.6k per annum and if his flying ranges from 400 to 600 hours a year, his hourly wage based on 2080 hours a year will range from about $31 to $35 per hour.


A pilot or an engineer is much better off being paid strictly by the number of hours he spends on the job. He will always be paid for any overtime he works as stipulated in the Canada Labour Code. The pilot in the above example will earn $72.8k a year if he works for $35 an hour and much more if overtime is involved. If this pilot goes to any job that requires him to stand a 14 hour day, he will be paid for 17 hours of his time with time-and-a-half. In one week he will be paid for 63 hours of overtime and earn an additional $2,205.


Flight pay is an inducement for pilots to fly when fatigued. It should not form part of any wage arrangement. In the CBAs examined involving major airlines and numerous small scheduled and on-demand fixed-wing operations, not one pay scale includes flight pay.


Hourly wages for pilots and engineers should range from about $20 an hour for the inexperienced to $40 or even $50 an hour for the experienced. Annual gross income before overtime will then range from about $40k to $100k. In 2004 the poverty line for a Canadian family of four living in a city of 500k or more inhabitants was $37.8k.








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