Pilots union accuse TAP of manipulation, propaganda over pay cuts

  • Lusa
  • 20 June 2022

This Sunday, TAP announced that it will reduce pilots' pay by 10% and increase the level at which it will apply pay cuts to other workers.

Portugal’s civil aviation pilots’ union (SPAC) on Monday accused TAP of “manipulation and propaganda” and said it would use “all legal mechanisms” to challenge what it said was being “breached”.

In an internal communiqué to associated pilots, to which Lusa had access, SPAC began by stating that “if TAP’s management capacity at least matched its capacity to manipulate information and propaganda, TAP would be in very good hands, but unfortunately it isn’t”.

“It even sounds like a campaign by a political party, but this time, and once again, those who are suffering are all the workers, and in this particular case, without possible comparison with other professional groups,” the pilots added.

This Sunday, TAP announced that it will reduce pilots’ pay by 10% and increase the level at which it will apply pay cuts to other workers.

In the statement, SPAC listed what it considers to be the company’s “sins”, and included issues that it has criticised in the past, such as cargo planes grounded for lack of certification, change of installations, the use of smaller Embraer planes and service contracts, or ACMI, to make up for difficulties in operations.

In addition, it said, “it suggests that the cuts are lower than the emergency agreements when in reality, taking into account the seven percent (7%) salary cut in annuities and seniority, the suppression of the inflation rate for 2020 and 2021, plus the value of the car parking, they are in fact much higher,” and “it now assumes the payment of the complementary meal subsidy, (known as the landing tax), but only retroactively to January 2022, when it has failed to make this payment since the signing of the temporary emergency agreement,” stressed the SPAC.

According to the same note, “there is no paragraph of the temporary emergency agreement that states that the supplementary cut is to ensure something other than job protection, and therefore, from the moment there is no need for job protection because there are surplus pilots, there must no longer be a supplementary salary cut”, assured the union.

Regarding management, the union said that TAP “is increasing its executive staff, bringing to Portugal at expatriate prices and conditions, foreign managers, increasing the weight of the structure in default of a restructuring plan that is said to ensure a sustainable future for the company”, adding that “the management team is only doing everything so that pilots continue to subsidise the company, with cuts in their salaries, these and other management errors that were intended to be adequate to the demanding challenges of the ultra-competitive aviation market”.

For all this, the SPAC board will ask “the scheduling, as soon as possible, of a company meeting from which cannot come out anything other than an industrial action measure that shows that the problem was never the pilots, who accepted a cut of more than 50% of their salary, but the successive damaging management of the company” that, they add, brought the company to where it is today.

“In parallel we will activate all legal mechanisms in defence of what we believe is being breached by the company. It’s time to say ‘no’ to the arrogance and impunity of those who manage us”, it concluded.

In a message sent to workers to which Lusa news agency had access on Sunday, TAP stressed that “the current salary cuts are a commitment made by everyone during the duration of the recovery plan” and that “they cannot be changed simply because the volume of business increases”.

It added that “in addition, one of the main objectives set for these cuts was to be able to adopt a minimum guaranteed salary to which no cuts would be applied”.

“The application of this minimum guarantee means that the effective cuts are not 25 per cent but vary on average between 12 and 15 per cent,” the letter said.

As a result of an “open and ongoing discussion, it was decided to update the guaranteed minimum wage from €1,330 to €1,410, retroactively to January 2022” and “this will ensure the principle of maintaining the protection of a level of remuneration without cuts equivalent to two national minimum wages,” TAP’s executive committee advanced in a message sent to workers.

According to the letter, specifically for pilots, the executive committee chaired by Christine Ourmières-Widener will “unilaterally reduce the cut they have suffered by 10%”, as well as pay the landing allowance without cuts, retroactive to January 2022 and suspend the application of the `clawback’ mechanism (and not plan overtime accordingly).

The `clawback’ mechanism is provided for in clause 12 of the temporary emergency agreement (ATE) and allows a penalty to be applied to TAP if it exceeds 300,000 flight hours per year and also limits TAP from planning overtime for pilots, according to the note.