To Be or Not to Be, That is the Question 

Over the past few days I have been attending the Australian Federation of Air Pilots (AFAP) 50th annual conference in Melbourne. The AFAP has a long (obviously) and proud history of representing the pilots of Australia. 

Trust, Honor, Commitment,Integrity 

Trust, honour, commitment and integrity are exactly the words you’d hope could be used to describe a relationship of mutual respect. It is no accident that these words and ones like them feature heavily in wedding vows as two people set off on what will hopefully be a lifelong shared journey.

Consider then the relationship between Airservices and its employees. Many, myself included, have described the relationship between our employer and its employees as damaged or toxic...

The Beginning of the End?


Despite nearly 8 months of opportunity for Airservices to engage its staff in real dialogue and bargain in good faith it appears likely that the Certified Agreement 2005-2008 (Air Traffic Control and Supporting Air Traffic Services) will expire without agreement being reached. Airservices implies in its rhetoric that the fault for this failure lies solely with Civil Air; that we have failed to move on critical issues. Even in saying this, Airservices fails to see the irony in their statement that no agreement is possible without these critical items. In his latest update to staff CEO Greg Russell states:


"Even though we have put forward a range of proposals for discussion in an attempt to reach agreement, there has been very little movement by Civil Air from its log of claims. Without some agreement on the key issues of sick leave and rostering, we are not able to make a revised offer. These two areas are critical if we are to deliver not only a reasonable wage increase but also the changes needed to improve the performance of the organisation."


I would like to take the opportunity to provide you with a précis of these "key" proposals with my comments indented below. (note the full proposal is available on the Civil Air website here )

1. Removal of "sick leave as required". This will be replaced by a sick leave provision of 15 days accruing annually with medical certificates required for all absences exceeding 1 day duration and all absences after 5 single days per year. As protection against long term illness or injury Airservices proposes paid sick leave may be available for blocks greater than 28 days under certain conditions. (Balances to be calculated based upon accrual if this scheme had commenced at original employment date minus actual sick leave taken) 2. Changes to rostering arrangements to address earlier start times, maximum shift length of 10 hours

· Airservices believe that this significant reduction in conditions is necessary to enable them to effectively manage the business. They have repeatedly stated that the changes would affect very few with only the problem users being at issue.

· Civil Air has repeatedly offered to help develop a leave management system to address Airservices’ inability to effectively manage its own staff without removing an entitlement from all but any discussion other than blind acceptance of this portion of the offer has simply been rejected out of hand.

· I would remind members that Airservices has decided that some elements of the "Letter of Commitment" that supports the current CA will not be honoured after December 21. In light of this it is well worth looking carefully at the sick leave proposal and note the "may be available" and "under certain conditions". Airservices protests that they will of course "look after" anyone who really needs help in this area but, sadly, we have palpable evidence that their word is their bond only when it suits them.



· Airservices has these provisions now. The difference is that you have a say. What Airservices seeks is the ability to roster starts from 0500 – 0600 and shift lengths between 6 and 10 hours without seeking approval from those who work the rosters. · In all previous agreements, staff have had the ability to shape the rosters they work provided they meet the required coverage. Where variations from "standard" shift lengths and starts provided roster efficiency staff approval allowed direct input into structure of the roster and in some cases some bargaining such that there was a win – win outcome. Indeed this is the premise the facilitative arrangements were sold to staff upon.



The provisions that are currently under discussion and a summary of Airservices’ and Civil Air’s positions on these matters will shortly be posted on the Civil Air website. The "revised offer" for ARRF increased the salary component from 4% per annum to 2.15% twice per annum. At every stage of negotiation Airservices has been asked to provide detailed financial analysis of the various offers and counter-offers. Indeed they have even agreed to provide the data but in the end either a simple figure with no back up information upon its provenance or throw-away responses such as "’ll cost an arm and a leg" are all that are offered. This is the first negotiation at which deliberate concealment of financials has been a hallmark of Airservices strategy. It has been complemented by constant statements that more detail will only be revealed after agreement is reached.


We hope that the pre 0600 starts issue will be heard before the AIRC next week. (Possibly after the "Reasonable Additional Hours" and ALM Restructure Redeployment/Redundancy hearings) As one member put it, "This is a ‘line in the sand’ issue..." That a Certified Agreement can be sold nationally on the basis of corrections for the document already published for the vote being made in a "Letter of Commitment" and then this commitment, simply ignored, is a startling breach of trust. Constant comments are made regarding the lack of goodwill and the mistrust of ATC group for management – yet the connection with such reprehensible behaviour is not apparent to Airservices. It was frankly insulting to read that, "...people's memories and time has [sic] clouded the original intent..." That Airservices has limited corporate memory, presumably due in part to the dramatic staff turnover commensurate with the arrival of the current CEO, does not diminish the clear recollection of those that negotiated the last agreement. Indeed Mr. Hodgson should recall the context of the "Letter of Commitment" if only because it bears his signature.


The current offer provides, I believe, a substantial reduction in conditions and what could be a real loss in salary over the term of the agreement. December 21 is not far away. We will maintain our best efforts until that date. If no agreement is struck we will conduct divisional meetings nationally on Monday December 22 to discuss our collective intentions beyond expiry. Expiry of the agreement opens a variety of options to us that are not possible prior to expiry, even though we would prefer not to be in the position of having these available. At that meeting, should it be necessary, we will discuss possible actions from this point.


It’s far from all over. Whilst I would prefer to be writing to you that we had already struck a fair bargain it appears that we should be planning for agreement expiry without a new one in place. Winston Churchill famously said; "...this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning."


Robert Mason
President, Civil Air
Sunday, 7 December 2008

Days of Darkness? 

The end of the year marks a significant time for much of the world's population. In northern climes the solstice marks the depth of winter and the slow celestial journey back towards spring and new life. You may know that December 21 marks the summer solstice in the southern hemisphere. Our day is longest and the night shortest. Regardless of religion most people reflect upon the year that has been and look with hope towards the year to come. There is also hope in our future, however difficult it may seem to see where that lies.

Yesterday December 21st, marked the expiry of the Certified Agreement 2005-2008 (Air Traffic Control and Supporting Air Traffic Services) without agreement being reached upon terms and conditions for a new collective agreement. I would like to thank the negotiating team on your behalf. They have not failed you. Throughout their hard work across 2007 and 2008 developing our position, 8 months of negotiation (well we were ready) and many meetings, they have continuously represented your interests in negotiation with an employer that appears to have failed to adequately recognise your resolve and more importantly value.

So on December 22 with no agreement in place where are we? There has been a significant amount of work across the many detailed areas that make up a complete agreement. Much has been resolved and a table of relative positions on matters can be viewed on the Civil Air website. Despite protestations from Airservices that Civil Air has failed to move on anything we have met and resolved many matters but there are areas on which our relative positions are still significantly apart. I would remind members that these areas are the same areas in which Airservices has demonstrated little, if any, movement. For Airservices to claim that we have failed to move is very much the pot calling the kettle black. The remaining matters represent considerable hurdles but we are still willing to negotiate in the hope that a breakthrough will allow a negotiated position to be reached.

So, for now, the conditions of the 2005 - 2008 agreement continue to apply. New POR rosters have commenced nationally with expiry of all Facilitative Arrangements on Sunday last. This is no doubt painful in many locations but there are people who have benefitted by virtue of additional staff being added to rosters. Unfortunately, despite all assurances that the staffing problems are fixed, there simply aren't enough bodies to resolve the issues everywhere. Rosters are still being published with significant quantities of empty shifts and the holes are being plugged by virtue of cannibalisation of check, project, training, admin and procedures shifts to an extent that leaves the system seriously under supported in these vital roles. Even then significant overtime to fill the remainder still leaves gaps in operational coverage.

Today divisional meetings were conducted around the nation to brief you on the latest position of both Airservices, with a verbal offer to be examined in some detail at future negotiation meetings, and Civil Air in respect of options available to the Association in respect of pursuit of our collective claims. Your responses from these meetings appear to be remarkably consistent and it is clear that your resolve to achieve a fair outcome from negotiations is steadfast. This will communicated directly to Airservices in upcoming negotiation.

So as 2008 draws to a close I'd ask you to consider what we have achieved together. Focus not so much on the negatives. There are always plenty of those and the challenge is to try and move towards a positive 2009 and beyond. Whilst things may seem bleak there is opportunity here for each of us to make a difference not only in our own future, but also in the future of those to follow. There are still challenging times ahead. When is it ever not so? Together we are equal to those challenges and hopefully we can resolve the agreement negotiations in a manner that does not further damage the relationship between employer and employee. The relationship must be fixed in the near future to ensure a future at all. You are doing your best, now it's time for Airservices to step up to the mark.

On behalf of the staff, officials and members that make up Civil Air I wish each of you a very Merry Christmas and a happy and safe New Year. If you have to work please accept my thanks on behalf of the thousands of Australians that rely absolutely on the professionalism and skills you demonstrate day and night all year round to ensure their safe, orderly and expeditious travel. Most of them have no real understanding if we collectively achieve but unrecognised does not mean without value, particularly at this time of year. If you are able to be with friends and family, relish the time with them. You won't die wishing you'd spent more time worrying about work.

Robert Mason
President, Civil Air
22 December, 2008

3rd Floor – Disinformation, wedge tactics

 and half truths – mind your step

The pending expiry of the Certified Agreement 2005 – 2008 (Air Traffic Control and Supporting Air Traffic Services) has obviously generated much discussion and has been the target date for successful outcome of negotiations towards a new agreement. Never, at any stage, has there been a doubt that Facilitative Arrangements expire on this date. In fact it’s spelt out in black and white as the very next clause after the renegotiation section. For those playing at home I quote directly (with my bolding):



1.9.1 This Agreement contains facilitative arrangements which provide opportunities for agreement to be reached as to how specific Agreement provisions can apply flexibly in the workplace. Any arrangements will not extend beyond the nominal expiry date of this Agreement.


This position was confirmed early in the agreement by a letter of commitment by the [then] GM People and Change, Alistair Hodgson. So the demise of FAs has never been in doubt. So what does that mean in a practical sense? As we’re well aware the FAs can extend to cover agreed variations to most of the core agreement. But as we see above any variations must be considered as temporary arrangements by virtue of automatic expiry at the end of the agreement.

So the obvious issues are going to relate to those matters that in 2002 – 2005 agreement were managed by way of a different agreement mechanism, the local rostering committee. Things like, shift length and starts before 0600. In effect all rosters must comply with Principles of Rostering from December 21. There is no doubt that many FAs provide benefit to the employee and the employer. Do not misunderstand this that Airservices enter into these arrangements for your benefit alone. Almost invariably they have only agreed to conditions improving things for the employee as the cost of getting what they wanted. The triple acquittal, for instance, is almost pathologically hated because of the significant impact upon utilisation of staff – 3 hours of availability burned for every 0500 start. In a strange twist of fate the idea of extra acquittal for those starts prior to 0600 is mirrored very strongly in the FAID fatigue modelling with fatigue between the hours of 2200 and 0600 accruing at triple the normal rate.

So what about the other things? Part-time employment for example does not of itself require a FA. Sure there are many people who are working rosters outside the core POR whilst working part-time but working 50% can be accommodated within the core CA. You would just have to work POR when you are at work. Is this inconvenient for some of our members? Undoubtedly. Other issues include FAs that vary salary. The current arrangement for System Supervisors fulfilling the role of Ops Director will also expire on December 21.

So where’s the misinformation? Firstly there’s the position that Airservices wanted to help you, the staff, out but Civil Air refused to negotiate. It’s not a case of what we want or don’t want. Simply put the agreement leaves no scope for continuation of FAs. They want the FAs to continue because it has an impact on rostering efficiency not because it helps you. There have also been pathetic attempts to try and paint a picture of your association in disarray and inner turmoil with one SDL stating that our Executive Secretary was having difficulty holding things together due to factional infighting. That would be the faction that has tried to negotiate in good faith for 7 months versus the, oh sorry that’s it. Simple, plain, unadulterated untruth. This is trying to set the scene for the common tactic of claiming that the association is unrepresentative of our membership. The advice received from Divisional meetings was loud and clear. There was virtually no dissention and encouragingly the directions you gave were aligned with the strategy we had planned. How about the tactic, soon exposed, that all other unions were close to signing and we were going to be the only ones missing out. Turns out that technical, admin and fire staff are at least as insulted as we are.

Then there’s the application of POR rosters (or not as the case may be). In one backwater TCU the SDL Manager has simply ignored the provisions of the Certified Agreement. OK there’s some blood on our hands too as there was no FA in place to cover the existing roster. But the manager in question is trying to bulldoze into place rosters with 0500 starts, shifts greater than 7 or 8 hours etc. on the basis of established practice. Here’s the rub, he’s relying on the fact that these roster variations occurred prior to the existing CA therefore if the CA expires he can simply do what occurred before it. Conveniently he has forgotten that the previous CA also expired in its entirety with the commencement of the new one and even then such variations could only be made with local rostering committee approval. Based upon this logic, I’ll go back to ED callout and travel time thanks. I might also advise the tax office that I’ll be complying with any prior taxation regimes that suit my own hip pocket and salary sacrificing a new laptop each year FBT free.

Elsewhere it appears that staff will be required to manage morning burst traffic without the benefit of normal 0500 – 0600 staffing. For all roster modifications where coverage is affected as a bare minimum a safety case determination is required. There appears to be no evidence of this activity. To my mind this is a serious breach of the requirements of our safety management system and will need to be investigated by the regulator to ascertain Airservices’ level of compliance. In one location staff have been told that the normal 0530 starter will not be available and an event report will be lodged daily to note the staff shortage. No doubt this will carry the ubiquitous “staff unavailability” epithet. Admirable that the issue is being recorded but obviously nothing will be done to address the issue that there are inadequate staff to safely meet the needs of the traffic.

I was also privy to a plan wherein the ALM would provide traffic management in scenarios of fatigued staff (having worked overnight) covering the morning burst into Sydney prior to arrival of the 0600 starters. This is great except that the ALMs start at 0500 Brisbane time when the floodgates are opening in Sydney. Unfortunately the opportunity to manage the workload has already passed.

So there is no unified approach to managing the demise of FAs, particularly with respect to rostering. There seems to be in some locations a deliberate attempt to flout the legal requirements of the CA, I can only presume as a deliberate attempt to manufacture a dispute in eth AIRC. Of course there are also the clumsy attempts to drive a wedge into the membership to turn us upon each other. When they can’t demonstrate internal problems with Civil Air they simply say it anyway and hope that someone takes their word as gospel. Certainly there are elements of the media that don’t cross check facts too closely as long as it looks juicy.

What can we do about it? Firstly, the office, via your delegate needs to know exactly what is being proposed for rosters beyond December 21. Funnily enough Airservices is not including Civil Air in its distribution list. (A quick aside here – I remind you that Airservices has the ability to read any correspondence between you and Civil Air if you utilise Airservices’ IT resources. In particular emails from an Airservices address to an address with a Civil Air domain name can be very easily extracted for review)  If your manager asserts that your part-time employment is no longer possible let the office know ASAP. It is not true. You will have to be rostered in accordance with POR but part-time employment is still available. They may try the tactic of cancelling part-time employment on the basis of operational need. This will have to be dealt with on an individual basis. There are legal avenues available to us that we will explore to the fullest extent possible. Have patience, we will not launch into this prematurely as a knee jerk reaction to Airservices’ provocations. Timing must suit our requirements.

What we are seeing are increasingly desperate attempts to try and solve problems of Airservices making with more of the same. Cutting the staff out of the loop has led to the lowest level of morale I have experienced in nearly 26 years. Airservices’ own staff surveys indicate a disengaged workforce and they constantly talk of the systemic reliance on overtime as being in part to blame for the lack of goodwill. So how do they try and solve it? By trying to imply that the problem is ours, not theirs. By trying strongarm tactics to force staff into agreements that remove the employee from any hope of self determination, and finally by insisting that you take an erosion of conditions to fund a real term decrease in salary.

Sorry but it’s not good enough by a long way.

Robert Mason
President, Civil Air
20 November, 2008