Groundhog Day for SIA and pilots’ union

SIA A380

It must feel like Groundhog Day for Singapore Airlines and the Air Line Pilots Association – Singapore (Alpa-S), which are once again in disagreement.

This is turning out to be a regular occurrence at SIA, which said earlier that it is parking several aircraft and cutting capacity drastically in response to the ongoing economic crisis. The airline also wants its pilots to take three to four days of no-pay leave a month as a cost-saving measure.

The union says that its members should not take more than the one day that the airline has asked of its other staff. If they must, the airline has to agree to some form of restitution when times are better, adds the Alpa-S. The carrier and its other staff unions agreed earlier this month to begin a shorter work week from 1 May, but that is contingent on a deal with Alpa-S. Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower has been asked to mediate between the two parties.

Since its inception in 1981, the Alpa-S has had more than 20 disputes with the carrier. In 2003, after the Sars virus led to a slump in the travel industry, union members overthrew their leaders due to unhappiness about the carrier’s plans to cut wages. That led to Singapore’s former prime minister and current minister mentor Lee Kuan Yew stepping in to resolve the dispute. In 2007, the union disagreed over the allowance for pilots who fly the Airbus A380 aircraft and the country’s industrial Arbitration Court eventually had to settle the case.

Here’s a suggestion – why don’t we put both parties in the economy class of one of the parked aircraft in a desert, preferably one of SIA’s older Boeing 777-200s with the horrible seat pitch, and serve them only dry bread and water until they reach an agreement? That just might help to move things along a little bit faster.

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