Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 189 - 199)



  Chairman: Good afternoon, gentlemen. We are having an equal opportunity afternoon today.

  Mr Donohoe: On the Committee, that is.


  189. Yes, generally speaking. Can I thank you for being so patient. I am sorry to tell you that we have had an apology from Bill Morris, which was delivered by hand. I understand that there has been a special set of circumstances there. Can I welcome you all and ask you, firstly, to identify yourselves.
  (Mr Morris) Robin Morris, I am a member of Prospect.
  (Mr Findlay) Ian Findlay, National Officer of Prospect.
  (Mr McGurk) John McGurk, Head of Research and Communication for BALPA.
  (Mr Kline) Roger Kline, Principal Negotiator for BALPA.

  190. Thank you very much indeed. Does anyone have any opening remarks?
  (Mr Findlay) Just a short statement, Chairman. Prospect you will know, formerly IPMS. We have changed our name but nothing else.

  191. You will have to remind us from time to time.
  (Mr Findlay) I am sure. I sometimes forget as well so if I say IPMS it is my slip. It is a very short statement on our behalf. I think one of the things we wanted to note was that air traffic is also part of the aviation industry and it is often forgot10 about in this circumstance. The events of 11 September just exacerbated a situation where the level of air traffic was not going down but it was not growing as fast as the predictions had been by the Airline Group who took over NATS. We must remember that 44 per cent of NATS' income comes from transatlantic traffic, which is only 16 per cent of the traffic, and that is because of the pricing policy that is there and the size of planes used over the Atlantic. I would like also to put on record that during 11 September what happened was that, of course, American airspace was closed very suddenly and the controllers actually turned the traffic back over the Atlantic and for that they must be congratulated because, as you are very well aware, there is no radar, they have to do it manually. The professionalism shines through. I hope in our submission we will answer as many questions as possible.

  192. Thank you very much. Did BALPA want to make any general remarks?
  (Mr McGurk) No, I think we will just leave it to questions.

  193. How many of your members have lost jobs since 11 September?
  (Mr McGurk) In the evidence which we have submitted we have a total confirmed figure of 957 so far.

  194. How many of those were directly attributable to the events of the 11 September and how many to conditions before that date?
  (Mr McGurk) We think it is fair to say that all of them really are attributable to the 11 September because the catastrophic and traumatic effect of the loss of business, the loss of revenue, the loss of cash flow, meant the airlines had to make those decisions at that time.

  195. Is that the same for you, Mr Findlay?
  (Mr Findlay) No. We have not lost any controllers at all over this issue. The Airline Group have been looking at various cutbacks for cutting the cost base but we knew that before 11 September. There is nothing directly attributable that we would see in the air traffic.

Mr Donohoe

  196. How do you think that the airline business itself has performed since 11 September as far as staff relations?
  (Mr Findlay) On the NATS business very well.
  (Mr McGurk) One of the things that has happened is, as often happens, a crisis brings out the best in people. We have actually had very productive relationships with the airlines in restructuring business after September 11. That does not mean to say that we are not critical and we do not have our own views about some of the longer term decisions, and we have highlighted some of them. Generally we think that it has been constructive. I think that is one of the benefits of union recognition in the industry, the stable relationships we have to work on. This has tested them and they have come out quite well.

  197. You do not believe that the airlines over-reacted?
  (Mr McGurk) No, we do not think so. We do not take that view. All you Members of the Committee understand the nature of the business. It is a business that depends on cash flow, it depends on utilising its assets to a reasonably high level. To shut it down for four days and then reduce its traffic, especially its profitable traffic, by a massive degree, you have to take drastic action to get costs back in line with revenues. That has got to be the position, it is a cyclical industry. This was a catastrophic shock.

  198. Do you believe that almost in its entirety it was the events of 11th September that led to the number of redundancies that have taken place within all the airline businesses, it was nothing to do with the downturn in the economy, the forecast was slow? You are not of that opinion at all, you believe as a trade union that it is down to the 11 September?
  (Mr McGurk) We think that the majority of the job losses are down to the direct traumatic effect of 11 September but there were falling yields in the transatlantic markets for BA, there were falling passenger numbers, there was a recession in the American economy, etc. These all had some effect. It is difficult to disentangle the cause and effect of those decision but I would say that they were very minor. I think the airlines would have sustained employment for those people, apart from the ones that had already been earmarked.

  Mr Donohoe: Has your membership discussed the possibility of the growth of the business when you will reach the levels pre 11 September?


  199. Mr Findlay, you are nodding.
  (Mr Findlay) I think that is a very good question.

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