Tuesday 16 July 2019

Passengers at risk as 'pilots forced to fly tired and sick'

I won't take holiday abroad over safety concerns, says TD O'Dea

Fianna Fáil's Willie O'Dea. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins
Fianna Fáil's Willie O'Dea. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins
Stock picture
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

Airline pilots are taking "uncomfortable risks" and putting passengers in danger due to bogus self-employment contracts, Fianna Fail TD Willie O'Dea has claimed.

Mr O'Dea said there are "significant safety issues" for passengers boarding planes this summer because pilots are being forced to work when sick because they fear losing their contracts.

Fianna Fail's employment affairs spokesman also said pilots on self-employed contracts do not raise safety concerns with employers because of the uncertainty surrounding their employment.

"There are significant safety issues as a result of this arrangement as contract pilots are less encouraged to voice safety concerns and feel more obliged to take uncomfortable risks," Mr O'Dea told the Sunday Independent.

"They are also more inclined to go to work when sick and are more often tired at work. This is one extreme example of a pernicious problem which has taken over large sectors of our employment. Ireland has actually become the hub for bogus self-employment in Europe and yet the Government are refusing to do anything about it," he added.

Mr O'Dea was speaking after an Oireachtas Employment Affairs Committee meeting last week which heard about the dangers caused by hiring pilots on bogus self-employment contracts.

At the hearing, Irish Airline Pilot Association (IALPA) President Captain Evan Cullen raised serious concerns about the impact of contracts which pilots are being forced to sign by major airlines.

Mr Cullen even claimed some female pilots are terminating pregnancies because they fear losing out on work.

Mr Cullen detailed research which found pilots on self-employed contracts were far more likely to take risks and ignore safety concerns.

He said they also were less likely to file fatigue reports before flying.

He said pilots on these contracts struggled to get mortgages and bank loans.

After hearing Mr Evan's evidence, Mr O'Dea said he would not be going abroad for his summer holiday due concerns over airplane safety.

Yesterday, the Fianna Fail TD said "bogus accountancy arrangements" are being forced on pilots who want to be hired by airlines.

"There are bogus accountancy arrangements whereby pilots are forced to become company directors, but there is no contact between any of the other directors and they are not even told who they are," he said.

"Company law which requires an AGM at least once a year is being flouted and the implications are not being explained to the 'contractor' pilots. They can be sued for limitless amounts of money," he added.

"I am proposing legislation to deal with the widespread problem of bogus self-employment, which the Government are delaying. In the meantime, bogus self-employment is a phenomenon that is spreading to all areas of business.

"I believe it is costing around €100m per year in employers' PRSI foregone. What is happening in the airline industry is just one example of what is happening. At present approximately half of pilots operating in Irish-registered airlines are not employed directly by the airline they fly for," he added.

Sunday Independent

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