déja moo


Yesterday’s “Black Shirt Day” (September 24) was festive for most but the principle underlying such an activity is important. We mourn the demise of good faith bargaining and show our despair at progress to date on our collective agreement. We also demonstrate to Airservices and, perhaps, to each other that we have a common cause, that we are pblack_tshirt.jpgrepared to support each other, and that we aren’t prepared to simply take whatever crumbs are thrown at us whilst watching a constant diminution of conditions.

 To the uneducated ATC wages look attractive. Try subtracting the portion of salary that is commuted shift penalties, then take out the week of rec leave for night workers that you bought last agreement lock, stock and barrel (no cost to Airservices - you more than funded it). Subtract the missed family occasions and increased marriage failure rate across a career of 24/7 shift work. Offset the average reduction in life expectancy of about 5 years as compared with non-shift workers. Consider increased risk of cardio-vascular and bowel disease, sleep and metabolic disorders, and an average career end at 52 years of age. This is here and now – not quite so attractive. Then consider what we are currently being offered.

The current state of negotiations is an interesting exercise in siege mentality. At the outset Civil Air provided the “Vision Document” to the Airservices team for their consideration. That was way back on May 12. The document represents the direction in which Civil Air would like to see conditions move based upon extensive input directly from the membership, employees of Airservices, as to what they want. It is grass roots developed and not an esoteric wish list thought up by a bunch of industrial specialists, disengaged from those they represent and looking for a stoush.

During the scheduled negotiation meeting on Wednesday September 24 it became apparent (again) that Airservices remains unwilling to actually negotiate for an agreement. It is true that Airservices have come to the table 11 times since the nominal commencement of the negotiation period. During these meetings Airservices has steadfastly refused to discuss the financial elements of the package, progressively exposing the items that it wants. Part of the strategy is that it is “a package” and they will not talk on that element until such time as they believe that it is likely “the package” will be accepted. This cannot be considered to be good faith bargaining.

Call me old-fashioned but I recall being given tapes to entice me into a programme that would make me rich beyond my wildest dreams. The tape talked about benefits from selling “the product” but never actually disclosed the product. The psychology was supposed to be that you’d become hooked on the pay-off so that when “the product” was finally revealed a little hard sell by the person next up the food chain would hook you. To some extent this process looks similar except that what we’re being sold is the erosion of our conditions. The repeated exposure is deliberate to try and remove the immediate abhorrence at what is actually being served up before they offer the payoff.

Airservices negotiators have said from the outset that the package is attractive. It has already been sold to the board and presumably government. Commensurate with the development of the negotiation position Airservices has run a disinformation campaign aimed squarely at painting itself as caught in an unfortunate circumstance that it is striving to fix. Indeed there have been many public promises that the problem was relatively minor and would, in any case, be solved by the end of August. Those of us on operational rosters can see the truth is very different and worsening day by day. A caring employer also stated that they were boosting controller numbers well above the actual requirement by massive injections of trainees. Indeed 80 – 100 per annum was much touted and we have seen more trainees start than has been the norm for many years. Unfortunately, as being proven today and every day at the academy, starting trainees and actually training them turn out to be 2 different things.

So the public persona is a caring employer trying to move the business forward. The sub text of all this careful positioning is that if it fails it must be the fault of militant shirkers. “The shortage was solved in August, there must be something else going on.” Meanwhile employees receive information that negotiations are proceeding well with agreement close for all parties except on the ATC agreement. In fact Airservices have withdrawn from negotiation with CPSU on the corporate agreement. As you have read, they terminated yesterday’s meeting with Civil Air. The Firies tell us they’re nowhere near an agreement yet. Clearly Airservices is attempting, however clumsily, to play us off one against the other. Special CEO reports on negotiation make it seem that payment for new and lucrative agreements are imminent except for the difficulties with Civil Air. This is intended to try and cause you to lose faith in your association and grab something while it’s still available.

The spin doctors will try and make you believe that there is no way but Airservices way. I suspect that much of upper management believes this and probably believe that they’re offering us a great deal. We wouldn’t know, they won’t show us. Hollow men* indeed. We can make a difference. We just have to stick together. In the end the choice is obviously with you but these wedge tactics are designed from the ground up to try and diminish the single best tool in our arsenal – solidarity.

Robert Mason
President, Civil Air
August 56, 2008

* http://plagiarist.com/poetry/1077/