Attention all NZ CPL holders – this concerns You!

23 July 2013 / by the GAA team / Consultation, Employment, Governance
Pilots are like garlic: We grow the best in New Zealand, but imports are cheaper

Pilots are like garlic: We grow some of the best, but imports are cheaper

How could anyone think of hiring airline pilots from offshore when our training system provides more pilots than our shrinking GA industry can find jobs for?

That’s precisely what Air New Zealand is planning. And probably not only planning but already actively recruiting, because we have discovered advertising that can only have come from Air NZ, on Pilot Hiring, an international recruitment website. The advertising seeks a second officer for Boeing 747, based in Auckland, and first officers for three New Zealand regional airlines.

A submission has been made by Price Waterhouse Coopers on behalf of Air New Zealand to add “Aeroplane Pilot” as a group which has skill shortages and which cannot be filled by NZ pilots. If it is accepted that there is a deficit of skilled pilots within New Zealand, this will give the Air New Zealand Group the option to hire foreigners. Astonishingly, The Price Waterhouse Coopers submission states:

“National data on people available to work or train suggests that there are 8 (eight) suitable job seekers available to fill vacancies within this occupation”.

This extraordinary claim is based on “Ministry of Social Development data as at 26 April 2013”.

Early feedback from GAA supporters strongly indicates that:

♦ the claim is untrue and

♦ hardly any interested party – including the President of the NZ Aviation Federation, and a member of Air New Zealand’s own pilot selection panel – was aware of the Air New Zealand proposal (which had a closing date for submissions of July 26, now extended to Friday August 9) until GAA exposed it.

GAA’s Des Lines was shocked to hear of the plan, and said: “CPLs pop out of our training schools with a basic commercial and multi engine instrument rating and a student loan of around $100K. But they are usually unemployable by the likes of our Link carriers until they get about 1000 PIC hours. If possible, they head offshore to find jobs in Third World countries to gain further experience.

“Those who are married or are tied to New Zealand for one reason or another have to accept jobs as instructors, for example, on a per flying hour basis or a retainer of the minimum per hour wage. It usually amounts to not more than $30K – $40K per year.

“Being tied to NZ during those critical years as a new CPL is an enormous handicap, and I advise all my young students of this and the necessity not to form attachments that are going to hobble them. Helicopter pilots are in a much worse position than fixed wing and only a relatively small number of them manage to get fixed base jobs here in New Zealand. A large number are involved in seasonal work in places like northern Canada and the places they work in don’t cater for wives and children – nor would you want them exposed to the risks in PNG, Indonesia and the like.

“Until GA can provide jobs for our Kiwi pilots, I would be very much against the importation of foreigners.”

Nevertheless, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment is carrying out a Preliminary Indicator Evidence Report (PIER). You would be excused for not knowing anything about this or what it means.

The purpose of the PIER is to collate relevant statistical data about each occupation selected to be part of the review of the Essential Skills in Demand (ESID) lists; and to provide a preliminary view on the status of the occupation based on that data.

A PIER report is based on an assessment of the occupation against three key indicators:

♦ skill level – does the occupation meet skill level requirements?

♦ scale – is the occupation of sufficient scale, in terms of employment or work visa application numbers, to warrant a listing?

♦ shortage – how strong is the evidence that there is a shortage?

The summary of evidence in the Price Waterhouse Coopers submission discloses:

The Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO) skill level classification and salary information are used as indicators of skill level.

In general terms, only occupations assessed by ANZSCO as levels 1 – 3 are considered “highly” skilled. In addition, a base salary of at least $45,000 is used as a proxy indicator for skill level.

ANZSCO skill level classification 1

Average annual base salary: $84,900
Salary range: $47,600 to $100,000

Qualification and experience requirements

A NZCAA Commercial Pilots Licence

Multi Engine Instrument Rating

A basic gas turbine endorsement

In accordance with Part 121.557 Air Operations – Large Aeroplanes

500 hours total flying time, including:

100 hours in Air Operations

25 hours of night flying.

The Air NZ Group also has a requirement for UE or ATPL subjects. This not a new requirement, but has been in place since the 1970s when the forerunner of Air NZ (NAC) operated domestically – a fair and reasonable way for the employer to ascertain that a pilot has the necessary academic ability to pass the type ratings and training required.

The ESID lists are designed to facilitate the entry of skilled workers to New Zealand to fill shortages, and to reduce costs and time delays for employers seeking staff. At the same time, it is important to ensure that appropriately skilled New Zealanders who are available to work are not displaced.

The bottom line

The time has come for young CPL holders (and those in training to become CPLs) to make a stand and protect your employment opportunities by making a submission to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

For many who are not all that long out of school, this will be a new experience and a daunting introduction into an adult world, where there comes a time to safeguard your future. Doing nothing and remaining silent is not an option.

The preferred option would be to flood the MoBIE with a large number of individual submissions, but time is tight.

GAA is here to help those who don’t feel sufficiently confident to put in their own individual submission. We will put in a submission and attach your names as co-submitters.

If you wish to support this, you need to email Des Lines at airfabrico [at] xtra [dot] co [dot] nz and request that your name be added as a co-submitter. It would be helpful if your email also contains your personal views and experiences in trying to get a flying job within NZ and if you have had to go offshore to find employment.

An indication of whether you currently meet the Air NZ Group requirements, or if you are currently working to gain them, would also be helpful information. These comments will be attached as an Appendix to the submission.

Initial feedback

Air New Zealand: It seems more interested in Rugby than in supporting other local talent

Air New Zealand: It seems more interested in Rugby than in supporting other local talent

GAA supporters’ reaction to the proposal was instant – and entirely negative. Here are a few of the comments:

“I find it disturbing that most can’t get a look in at Air NZ, yet they are prepared to open the borders to what will certainly be cheap labour from Asia looking to escape from that part of the world. I personally have been forced offshore four times in the search of flying work and believe it is a little rich to say there is now a shortage of pilots when the training scheme (student loan) has also largely been done away with. Government/industry can’t have it both ways… We are already working for free or less than the minimum wage in GA.”

“The Government recently stopped providing student loans for flight training as there are a significant number of people completing the training and then being unable to find any employment in the industry, or cannot afford to – for example, flight instructors at some schools are paid $20 per flight hour yet are expected to be on the premises for a full working week but do not earn 40 hours worth of pay.

I personally exceed the requirements being mentioned. I have 3000 total hours, 2600 gained on multi engine turbo prop aircraft on air operations, with 100 night hours. I am a New Zealand Citizen, hold a New Zealand Commercial licence with some written ATPL examinations completed, and a Multi Engine Command Instrument Rating.

I went overseas to gain employment as there were no opportunities in New Zealand upon completion of my training. I tried for years to return to New Zealand but was unable to gain meaningful employment. Some smaller companies such as Sun Air require you to pay for your training and aircraft type rating and then do not even pay a salary that would suffice to live on. I am also led to believe the starting pay at Eagle Airways is less than the advertised $45,000 in the submission.

There are many people overseas who would gladly return to New Zealand to work for Air New Zealand, should they be given the opportunity.”

“Please add my name as a co-submitter – my son had to move overseas after completing his pilot training as companies in NZ were not taking on inexperienced pilots and as a result he doesn’t meet the listed requirements to gain employment in New Zealand now – he has had to stop flying and retrain in another career in an attempt to repay his very large student loan, which was taken out to train as a pilot. Also, the Government is no longer giving student loans to fund the whole of the pilot training, which will prevent the majority of people who wish to train doing so.”

“It’s devastating that my son hasn’t been able to continue flying as it is his passion and lifelong dream and having flown overseas means he doesn’t have the requirements to fly here and financially can’t afford to fly for a small company with such a huge student loan. I’d much prefer him to be here in NZ, instead of overseas doing something else.”

“I’m a 1500-hr B cat with MEIR and I can’t find work at the moment. There is no need for overseas pilots.”

“I am working in Papua New Guinea on a Twin Otter as a co-pilot. I currently meet most of the Air NZ requirements, missing a couple of night hours – that’s pretty much it. So many pilots I know have applied and failed the group tests in the interviews. I applied two months ago and have heard nothing back from Air NZ. I have close to 400 hours on the Otter and 330 hours in NZ doing various things, and am working on my night hours and ATPLs. My current company looks to upgrade me to Dash 8 where several pilots from Air Nelson and Eagle have joined our company due to high wages and only working six months a year.

I had to go offshore to Oz to find work and managed to find better in PNG.

I personally wanted to come back to a relatively First World country, even with the pay drop, but it is a hefty one. I don’t think they are willing to pay for training etc since they still have not created a cadetship-type scheme – which is why I’m still in PNG paying my student loan off.”

“Can current NZ ATPL pilots make a submission to keep the status quo? And can current budding CPL pilots simply submit to keep the status quo and then state they would like to be heard?

Keep NZ pilot jobs for Kiwis. I don’t believe there are only eight pilots available.”

“I find it outrageous that Air New Zealand will be potentially looking for overseas pilots to fly for them. I am currently at university but am looking to finish at the end of next year and pursue aviation as a career. I only went to Uni because at the time the aviation industry was stagnant (and to gain a qualification to help me gain an aviation job).

Having gained my PPL, I looked at finishing my training and heading to Australia for work experience but decided not to and stay loyal to New Zealand and our national carrier. I feel Air New Zealand could better implement plans to train pilots such as Virgin Australia’s pilot cadet scheme, as opposed to its ‘Airline Integration Course’ and simply recruiting cheaper overseas pilots and undercutting New Zealanders like me.”

“We can perhaps get some from Asiana?”

“In regards to the pay bracket, Eagle Air does not qualify for the minimums of $45,000 a year for the skilled labour application, although Mount Cook and Air Nelson currently do. Eagle pays the FO $44k if they have ATPLs or $42k if they don’t have a frozen ATPL, as the starting wage.”

“If there are only eight pilots left in NZ to fill the vacancies, where did the rest of them go? That’s a rhetorical question, folks. Why fly, when an educated man or woman can become a teacher in the UK and earn up to $90,000 a year?”

“This makes incredible reading – especially given I’m active with pilot recruitment. I have heard no talk of this amongst the assessors and agree with your comments.The wonders of the Internet and communications are rapidly now working to our advantage.”

“From my own experience attempting to gain overseas employment as a pilot, I know that every national, flag-carrying airline is fiercely supported by its own government’s policies to protect their own locally born and trained progeny. There is almost nothing more sacred than nationals flying as pilots in a national airline. It is normally not possible to even receive a reply as a foreigner to an employment application. I cannot understand the logic of this new idea.

NZ would surely be globally alone in allowing the hiring of foreign-trained crew members. Are we as New Zealanders not proud of our nationally trained product?

Do the flight training schools who train these NZ pilots not support regional economies with their requirements? Do these schools not involve other New Zealanders by using fuels, by having maintenance and avionic work done, by using local builders and other tradesmen, and do those student pilots not eat and sleep in New Zealand? They are all people who will vote in NZ elections, and pay taxes to the NZ Government, which owns the majority equity stake in Air New Zealand. That same government-owned airline would repay those loyal folk by NOT offering them well-paid jobs in a prestigious position.

It is an outrageous idea to open the Essential Skills in Demand List to include ‘Aeroplane Pilots’. As a New Zealand voter and pilot, I strongly oppose the move.”

What is happening here is outrageous with regard to New Zealand aviation employment. I have a daughter and future son-in-law who have invested a heck of a lot of money into being qualified as New Zealand pilots, only to be faced with what is looking like a bleak future. They, like many of their generation, are considering going overseas.

Air New Zealand is owned by New Zealanders (since it got bailed out to close on a billion dollars when it hit the wall over the Ansett debacle) and New Zealanders have spent a small fortune loaning to prospective pilots through the student loan scheme, only to be now told that the kids they loaned the money to are no good and the airline that they own (and like to call their own) is going to hire foreigners, with foreign licences and foreign certificates.

We all know that this is really just a lot of sabre-rattling towards the likes of ALPA to lower their pilot costs. No one would deny them that, but they could do it in a less destructive manner to an innocent party, which is New Zealand’s struggling General Aviation community.

♦ Air New Zealand has also recently amended its requirements for regional service roles. The details are here