The unity that has been the hallmark of us pilots is the most powerful weapon against the common threat we now face. We must all respond to a situation that not only threatens the economy of states, companies and individuals, but also the most important of all: People‘s lives and health. People‘s minds and hearts are understandably with their family and loved ones, although the uncertainty regarding their livelihood and job security can certainly be an added stressor.
Situation with Icelandair
Icelandair, like other airlines around the globe, is now faced with a sudden loss of income, and great uncertainty. The company plays an important role, not only as regards to its staff, but also Icelandic society and economy as a whole. The company‘s strength lies in the combination of its fleet, its strong equity, as well as its talented and hardworking employees, who have previously fought through difficult times with their work-ethic and integrity. We will also do so now.
It is clear that the company must react quickly to the situation that we are now facing. Icelandair representatives announced last week ideas as regards general actions to respond to the down-swing. In order to reduce wage cost as quickly as possible, most employees will reduce their job percentage. A large part of these people will, however, maintain most of their disposable income as they will receive payment from the Unemployment Fund to compensate, a resource provided by the authorities that was partly created to prevent an increase in unemployment.
Icelandair pilots will contribute to ensure the success of the company, as other employees do. It is quite common that pilots are hired in their twenties, working with loyalty for Icelandair until the end of their careers. That is a unique long-term relationship, and a testament to the quality of our work.
Already, almost a quarter of pilots have lost their work, as the grounding of the company‘s B-737 MAX plains had a big impact on the operations of the company, before the spread of the Covid-19 compounded the situation. Pilots reacted, then as now, and postponed agreed wage-increases and prolonged the CLA without increase to support the company. The government‘s actions to assist employees are of great benefit to many Icelandair employees, but they are not as useful to us pilots. Our CLA is quite different from that of other groups, and therefore we needed to find new measures to adapt the proposed action to pilots, in accordance with our CLA.
Unpaid leave instead of 50% job percentage
The original demand was that all Icelandair pilots go down to 50% job percentage, similar to that of other employees of the company. After it became clear that this wouldn‘t be according to the seniority list bylaws, it was clear that other avenues must be pursued. FÍA responded by suggesting that wage cost could be reduced quickly with a suggestion of unpaid leave. The action entails that pilots will only work for half of the month from 1. April-31. May 2020. With this, the company can achieve the same amount of savings without having to make amendments to the CLA.
According to FÍA‘s bylaws, a confidential e-election will now take place. If this temporary measure is agreed upon, Icelandair is authorised to put its pilots on unpaid leave during the aforementioned period of time.
It is my sincere hope and belief that pilots will show understanding under these unprecedented conditions, and yet again help get Icelandair through difficult times. Our unity is our hallmark, and I hope we can show it in action.
Although the emphasis over the past few days has been on Icelandair, we are of course also working on guarding the interests of other pilot groups within the union, and we will be in further contact with you as matters progress.
Jón Þór Þorvaldsson,