Select Committee on Transport Written Evidence


Memorandum submitted by the Transport and General Workers' Union


  The Transport and General Workers' Union (T&G) is the largest trade union representing over 49,000 workers employed in the civil aviation industry. We welcome the opportunity to contribute to the enquiry by the Transport Committee into the work of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

  In our memorandum we concentrate on two elements of the work of the CAA. Firstly, we comment on its economic regulation and how it impacts negatively on pay bargaining. Secondly, we comment of its health and safety regulation, giving some examples of its failure, then suggesting some measures to rectify these failures.

  According to its website ( The CAA, which is a public corporation, was established by Parliament in 1972 as an independent specialist aviation regulator and provider of air traffic services.

  Following the separation of National Air Traffic Services from the CAA in 2001, the CAA is now the UK's independent aviation regulator, with all civil aviation regulatory functions (economic regulation, airspace policy, safety regulation and consumer protection) integrated within a single specialist body.

  The UK Government requires that the CAA's costs are met entirely from its charges on those whom it regulates. Unlike many other countries, there is no direct Government funding of the CAA's work.


  Again according to its website the Economic Regulation Group (ERG) regulates airports, air traffic services and airlines and provides advice on aviation policy from an economic standpoint. Its aim is to secure the best sustainable outcome for users of air transport services. ERG's main tasks are to promote liberalisation through the removal of Government-imposed restrictions to entry to the airline market and to facilitate the optimal supply and regulation of aviation infrastructure. The ERG acts as expert adviser to the Government and collects, analyses and publishes statistical information on airlines and airports.

  Specific responsibilities of the CAA include:

    —  Economic Regulation of Airports.

    —  Economic Regulation of National Air Traffic Services.

    —  Economic Policy Advice to Government.

    —  Statistics.

    —  Surveys.

  We have major reservations about some of these stated objectives, which would appear to be subjective. The aim is to secure the best sustainable outcome for users of air transport services" raises a number of questions. Who is the user of air transport services? Is it the final end user ie the passenger or shipper, or is it the airlines using a CAA regulated airport? The best sustainable outcome could be different for the end user compared with an airline.

  One of the CAA main tasks is to promote liberalisation through the removal of Government-imposed restrictions to entry to the airline market and to facilitate the optimal supply and regulation of aviation infrastructure". Clearly, this raises questions as to the removal of restrictions to entry into the airline market. Barriers to entry can either be quality—safety, or quantity—numerical.

  We believe that any reduction in existing safety standards resulting from the liberalisation agenda should be resisted unless it can be properly justified after proper consultation with all the relevant stakeholders.

  In regard to a relaxation of quantity restrictions, this may result in increased competition, and when it does our experience indicates that this tends to lead to pressure to reduce labour costs in order to maintain profitability. Experiences from other industries is that as a result of increased competition there is the lowering of levels of employment in existing firms and reduced earnings.

  In the past the CAA have stated that: ... and the economy generally should also gain from the usual benefits of increased competition—greater efficiency, enhanced innovation, and a better deal for consumers in terms of increased choice and lower prices" (CAP 749: 3). Yet there is no mention of profits, which is in the majority of cases will be a firm's main driver.

  However, most economic theory in regard to the liberalisations of markets, especially transport markets, is founded on the discredited Contestability Theory" which believes that competition or the threat of competition acts on reducing prices to or about where the price equals marginal cost.

  For our members employed in the companies coming under CAA regulation it would be difficult to say that they have benefited from the liberalisation of the airline market. For example British Airways reduced its labour force by nearly 5% in the last financial year 2004-05, and are facing more cuts in the future. Also the British Airports Authority has just announced 700 job cuts.

  Given that the CAA is the regulator for the whole of the industry, we believe it should take into account the results of its action for the whole of the industry, including those who work in it, and not just the end user, whoever they may be!

  It is our view that many of the economic policies pursued by the CAA are based on a neo-classic economic agenda, which has little or no relevance to today's airline industry. However, there is some recognition on the part of the CAA of possibility of regulatory capture by the airline industry. The CAA recognises that care must be taken in increasing the role played by the airlines in setting price controls" (CAA May 2004: 41). Most of its reports and publications are based on information supplied by the companies operating in the industry, and it is in the interests of the employers in the airline industry to keep employment conditions below the market-clearing rate, and the CAA could be consciously or unconsciously supporting this.

  Also when the CAA set the price for the price regulated airports by definition it has limited the role of collective bargaining in determining the wage rate. Once the price controls are set there is only a fixed size cake from which wages can be taken. We would draw the Committee's attention that during the last airport reviews, it would appear that the CAA did not consult with any trade union on the approached [sic] taken to, and process of, the airport reviews" (CAA: May 2004: 55).


  The stated role of the CAA's Safety Regulation Group (SRG) is to ensure that UK civil aviation standards are set and achieved in a co-operative and cost-effective manner. The SRG must satisfy itself that aircraft are properly designed, manufactured, operated and maintained; that airlines are competent; that flight crews, air traffic controllers and aircraft maintenance engineers are fit and competent; that licensed aerodromes are safe to use and that air traffic services and general aviation activities meet required safety standards.

  To monitor the activities of this complex and diverse industry, the SRG employs a team of specialists. According to the CAA: They have an exceptionally wide range of skills, including pilots qualified to fly in command of current airliners; test pilots able to evaluate all aircraft types; experts in flying training, leisure and recreational aviation activities; aircraft maintenance surveyors; surveyors conversant with the latest design and manufacturing techniques; flight test examiners; aerodrome operations and air traffic control specialists; and doctors skilled in all branches of aviation medicine".

  Specific responsibilities include:

    —  Commercial Aviation.

    —  General Aviation.

    —  Harmonising European Standards.

    —  Flight Operations.

    —  CAA/SRG Support to Government.

    —  Passenger Safety.

    —  UK Register of Civil Aircraft.

    —  Aircraft Maintenance.

    —  Structures, Materials and Propulsion.

    —  Aircraft Airworthiness.

    —  Aircraft Design and Manufacturing.

    —  Flight Crew Licensing.

    —  Medicals.

    —  Human Factors.

    —  Air Traffic Control Services.

    —  Aerodrome Licensing and Inspections.

    —  Incident Reporting.

    —  Research.

    —  Carriage of Dangerous Goods.

    —  International Consultancy and Training Services.


  In regard to safety, one of the CAA's primary roles is to ensure that general aviation activities meet required safety standards, eg it scrutinises any occurrences which have possible safety implications (egwhich might lead to incapacitation). But it has not considered that its responsibilities extend to events leading to aircraft crews or passengers feeling unwell.

  Under section 7 (1A) of the CAA Aviation Health Act(?) the Secretary of State is to be responsible for organising, carrying out and encouraging measures for safeguarding the health of persons on board aircraft".

  The CAA has also taken a parochial view of health and safety, limiting itself to the aircraft and not to the airport environment, which presently comes under the Health and Safety Executive. We have consistently argued that there should be one overarching authority responsible for all health and safety issues in the airports. Our preferred agency is the HSE because they have a people" orientated approach to health and safety, while the CAA has a system-based approach!

  This system-based approach has resulted in this parochial view which manifests in the culture of the CAA. As will be seen from above, no mention is made of the involvement of trade union health and safety representatives, or health and safety committees. We find this incredulous at the start of the 21st century.

  We now want to highlight specific issues in regard to health and safety to emphasise this parochiality:

  1.  The CAA issued a paper on air quality in 2004 that indicated that air quality was within exposure limits, although they did acknowledge they had not investigated the long term health issue. Their conclusions were based on:

    (a)  air sampling research that was never done during a contaminated air event, or as far as we are aware a simulated contaminated air event; and

    (b)  data presented in a commercially restricted British Aerospace (BAe) document in which limited toxicological testing was undertaken and the research methodology was not subject to independent peer review.

  2.  The CAA has failed to collate further data via air quality monitoring or address possible underreporting of contaminated air events.

  3.  The CAA has failed to act on reported elevated levels of carbon monoxide or to investigate the presence of the organophosphate Tri-Cresyl Phosphate (TCP) in aircraft.

  4.  The CAA has failed to carry out health monitoring or investigate health effects in crew or to endorse ongoing research studies into this issue.

  5.  The CAA has failed to provide a medical protocol to deal with affected crews and passengers.

  6.  The CAA has failed to ensure that passengers are informed if they have been exposed.

  7.  The CAA has failed to install existing technology (air filters) to reduce potential contamination.

  8.  The CAA appears unaware of the limitations of current toxicological data.

  As a result of these failings we believe that the health and safety role the CAA should be substantially revamped, and would suggest the following changes:

    —  That the health and safety responsibilities of the CAA should be transferred to the HSE. Failing this an independent ombudsman system should be introduced so that any future failings in CAA responsibilities can be brought to the attention of the public more swiftly.

    —  That the CAA commission an independent research project to quantify fully the toxicological effects of inhaling pyrolised synthetic jet engine oils and hydraulic fluids in humans both in the short and long term.

    —  That the CAA commission an independent wide scale health survey of crews who have flown the British Aerospace BAe 146.

    —  Make it compulsory to advise the public when they have been exposed to contaminated air.

    —  Endorsement of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) research project to determine what chemicals are present during contaminated air events.

    —  Fit contaminated air detection systems to all civil aircraft.

    —  Recommend all airlines fit bleed air filtration systems to their civil aircraft.


  We have major concerns in regard to the work of the CAA especially in its role as an economic regulator that it does not recognise the impact of its price regulation has on collective bargaining.

  The CAA role as a regulator for Health and Safety should be transferred to the HSE.

November 2005

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