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
According to its website (http://www.caa.co.uk/default.aspx?categoryid=1)
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
Economic Policy Advice to Government.
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 qualitysafety,
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 competitiongreater 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
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
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:
Harmonising European Standards.
CAA/SRG Support to Government.
UK Register of Civil Aircraft.
Structures, Materials and Propulsion.
Aircraft Design and Manufacturing.
Air Traffic Control Services.
Aerodrome Licensing and Inspections.
Carriage of Dangerous Goods.
International Consultancy and Training
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
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
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
The CAA role as a regulator for Health and Safety
should be transferred to the HSE.