Examination of Witnesses (Questions 189
WEDNESDAY 19 DECEMBER 2001
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
(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
191. You will have to remind us from time to
(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
(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.
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
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.