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Solidarity Of Pilots Versus Mechanics  
User currently offlineMD11Engineer From Germany, joined Oct 2003, 14304 posts, RR: 63
Posted (10 years 9 months 1 day 14 hours ago) and read 3611 times:

This topic could cause some controversy, please stay polite. ALSO PLEASE ONLY PROFESSIONALS FROM THE MENTIONED FIELDS ANSWER!

During my years of working in the aviation industry I´ve observed that usualy pilots show a much stronger sense of solidarity than mechanics and therefore seem to receive better benefits.
For example during the implementation of the JAR system, it seems that the only people having been heard were the representzants of the maintenance industry and the governments. How else can it be explained that the idependent licenced engineer, who carries the full responsibility, but is also the only person to sign off airplanes, has been pushed aside in many cases for a "company approval" system. An extreme case I´ve seen is a legal loophole between the JAA and the FAA, in which a JAR 145 company operating under JAA rules can get a company approval for a certain aircraft type, based on one single mechanic with the appropiate rating, can get an FAA company approval, which permits any employee to sign off US registered aircraft without having an A&P licence, just a gen fam course.

We have the same power to ground aircraft as pilots and a similar responsibility, but we stick to lousy salaries and working conditions. Pilots in many countries started their own professional assiciations or unions, highly specialised
and catering to their needs, but us, if there is a representation or collective bargaining at all, is as a part of the same union that represents the cleaners and baggage handlers. Often enough I´ve noticed that the big unions are not really interested in us. Also I´ve noticed that for many colleagues a union or just collective bargaining is something "pinko commie".
At least here in Europe a mechanic´s and engineer´s union would need to be multinational to prevent the employers (who are mostly operating internationaly) from playing people of one country against another.

All serious input is welcome!


Je Suis Charlie et je suis Ahmet aussie
26 replies: All unread, showing first 25:
User currently offlineLMP737 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 1, posted (10 years 9 months 1 day 13 hours ago) and read 3567 times:

Where do I begin. I don't think I'm going out on a limb when I say that the pilots have better representation than mechanics here in the states. There are many reasons for this but probalby the biggest reasons is the pilots have their own work group classification. In other words only pilots can be a part of it. We mechanics on the other hand fall under the "mechanics and related" classification.

When the pilots union negotiates a contract the only people they are negotiating for are the pilots. The unions that represent the mechanics are also negotiating for the rampers, plant maintenance, cabin cleaners, stores, vehicle maintenance etc. Basically the unions have to keep all these people happy. What happens is that there pay raises are tied to ours. What we get they get as well. This keeps our pay artificially low.

In addition it does not help that unions that represent us seem more interested in our dues money than anything else. What would help mechanics the most would be to campaign for our own class and craft like the pilots have. This would improve our bargaining position greatly. However the unions won't do that since they are afraid that if this were to happen we would dump them for a union like AMFA. Basically they are afraid they would lose the money from our dues.

Here's an example of the kind of representation the mechanics have to deal with. The union that represents me is the TWU (Transport Workers Union0 or as we like to call it, Totally Worthless Union. Last year the mechanics at AA took a 17% base paycut along with other reductions. When you factor both together it comes out to around 25%. Now here's the kicker. In 2003 the top officials at the TWU actually received pay increases. Go figure.

User currently offlineMD11Engineer From Germany, joined Oct 2003, 14304 posts, RR: 63
Reply 2, posted (10 years 9 months 1 day 13 hours ago) and read 3554 times:

This is the same I´ve experienced with the German Verdi (vereinigte Dienstleistungen = United Services, includes bankers, journalists, truckers, nurses... the biggest union in the world, but much to big and unspecific for my taste) union or the Irish SIPTU (Services Industrial Professional´s Trade Union), been a member of both. Us mechanics are a speciality nobody is really interested in. They are good for 9 to 5 factory workers but not for us.

I´ve heard about AMFA, and I wish there was something like this in Europe!


Je Suis Charlie et je suis Ahmet aussie
User currently offlineLMP737 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 3, posted (10 years 9 months 1 day 13 hours ago) and read 3544 times:


There have been some improvements in our bargining position. The TWU in the late 90's became so fearful of the AMFA "threat" that they allowed the mechanics to form their own locals. We still had to include stores and vehicle maintenance in our local. At least we got to negotiate our contract without the rampers. However there is talk of "forcing" us to negotiate our next contract as one big happy family like before. I can think of nothing that would start a open rebellion within our ranks than this.

My experience has been as a mechanic that "strength in numbers" really does not work for us. It actually hinders us.

P.S. Like your username. The first widebody I ever worked on was an MD-11. Best looking widebody out there.

User currently offlineMD11Engineer From Germany, joined Oct 2003, 14304 posts, RR: 63
Reply 4, posted (10 years 9 months 1 day 12 hours ago) and read 3532 times:

At the moment we don´t have any representation in our company. Acc. to the number of employees in our company we are by law entitled to have an elected employee´s representative (not connected to any union) who would have special privileges, like sitting in the hearing if somebody gets fired or having access to company financial books, or even the different contracts of the mechanics. Right now we´ve got different people who receive different salaries for doing the same work, depending on how well they "sold" themselves when they got hired. Another thing is compulsory membership of an union is illegal here. Many of our foreign (American, British, South African) colleagues think we want to pull them into some "commie" conspiracy to take membership dues out of their pockets.


Je Suis Charlie et je suis Ahmet aussie
User currently offlineLMP737 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 5, posted (10 years 9 months 1 day 12 hours ago) and read 3528 times:

Did not know that compulsory membership in a union is illegal in Germany. Here in the states it goes both ways depending on the situation. As a mechanic at AA I have to be a member of the TWU, although I really don't want to. However, for example, the engineers at Boeing have a choice whether or not they want to be members of the engineer union, SPEAA.

If the company you work for is smart they will go out of their way to keep you guys happy. I had a teacher, former airline executive, say that any company that has a union on property probably did something to deserve it.

User currently offlineMD11Engineer From Germany, joined Oct 2003, 14304 posts, RR: 63
Reply 6, posted (10 years 9 months 1 day 12 hours ago) and read 3518 times:

Membership of a union is purely voluntary. Usualy the employer signs a contract with the union representing most of his workers and if he is not stupid, offers the same to the non-union workers. Contribution to the union is usualy 1% of the net income.
The budget of the union is usualy kept secret because it is the union´s "war fonds", to pay a compensation to the members during industrial action (less than the salary, usualy depending on how many children you have, just enough to make you survive and not get kicked out of your home for not paying rent). The size of it determines for how long a union can for example go on strike or pay lawyers for cases at labour court.


Je Suis Charlie et je suis Ahmet aussie
User currently offlineLMP737 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 7, posted (10 years 9 months 21 hours ago) and read 3403 times:

Does the rank and file members have access to the unions budget or is it kept secret from them as well? If it is that definitely leaves the door open to "abuses".

User currently offlineSaintsman From United Kingdom, joined Mar 2002, 2065 posts, RR: 2
Reply 8, posted (10 years 9 months 17 hours ago) and read 3361 times:

Pilots get away with so much more because they are percieved as something special. They have spread a myth that it takes a different class of person to fly an aeroplane and therefore they are not to be messed with.

Now I have no argument that they should be well paid for what they do, particularly with the responsibility thay have and also because of the financial costs most pilots incur getting to a commercial or airline status. However as most of us know, if flying was difficult the engineers would do it  Big grin

At my company, the aircrew have their own negotiating body and get far better conditions than we do. It is only recently that we managed to get the same allowances as the aircrew when we are operating away from base (it costs the same for us as it does aircrew). They did bring the rates down though so they matched.

We are always told that market forces define pay scales and that we must remain competative if we want to attract business. Fair comment until you see the salaries and perks the directors get. Its funny how their market forces work the opposite way to ours.

We will never get solidarity between ground and air crew because it is not in the aircrew's interest. They would not be able to perpetuate the myth otherwise.

User currently offlineMD11Engineer From Germany, joined Oct 2003, 14304 posts, RR: 63
Reply 9, posted (10 years 9 months 16 hours ago) and read 3352 times:

There is some kind of internal control AFAIK, I´ve never heard of any union corruption so far and the system exists here like this since more than 100 years. I think the budget will have to be laid open during the annual membership meetings.


BTW, you know that it is easier to train a mechanic to become a pilot than the other way around  Wink/being sarcastic

Je Suis Charlie et je suis Ahmet aussie
User currently offlineMD11Engineer From Germany, joined Oct 2003, 14304 posts, RR: 63
Reply 10, posted (10 years 9 months 16 hours ago) and read 3349 times:

Ok, I checked the German union website. The budget won´t be published openly, but the members can and will elect a commitee of delegates of their trust, starting on local level up to federal level, who are supposed to check the books at least twice a year. The commitee members are not allowed to be employed by the union themselves.


Je Suis Charlie et je suis Ahmet aussie
User currently offlineAvioniker From United States of America, joined Dec 2001, 1109 posts, RR: 11
Reply 11, posted (10 years 8 months 4 weeks 1 day 21 hours ago) and read 3279 times:

Here's my oversimplified take: and I do mean oversimplified.
There have been a few studies done and this is my understanding of the results.

Pilots are taught to respond to a situation by rote. The largest group involvement involves a four person crew (if there's a navigator aboard) and they are all on the same "page" trained to do things in the same order by the same method. No thinking allowed until the checklists have been exhausted. There are variations in procedures but they deal more with crosswind takeoffs and landings and system failures than specific component issues.
Pilots and crew members are more prone to listen to and follow instructions, be it from a dispatcher or union leader...

Mechanics and technicians are taught and encouraged to be independant thinkers and work more apart from their counterparts. If a plane is in for a "weekly" inspection it will be done by one or two mechanics and any defects will be dealt with by them with very little outside help. They go to the manuals, choose the appropriate fix or procedure and do it. If that doesn't work (and that's not uncommon) they try something different (in the book or not) until the problem is remedied. They don't often ask for or follow outside advice. They aren't followers and don't really care to be led.
Union leaders are often disparaged and are more often the guys who didn't like getting dirty to start with...
That makes the mechanics hard to organize and lacking in one solid voice.

Okay let's hear it...

One may educate the ignorance from the unknowing but stupid is forever. Boswell; ca: 1533
User currently offlineAAR90 From United States of America, joined Jan 2000, 3510 posts, RR: 46
Reply 12, posted (10 years 8 months 4 weeks 1 day 17 hours ago) and read 3253 times:

Y'all are talking more about negotiating dynamics rather than pilot or mechanic "solidarity." Who has better leverage in terms of negotiating their contract: Pilots or Mechanics? Lot's of stuff to consider but the one that comes to my mind after reading the postings above is: How long does it take a company to replace pilots vs. mechanics... and why? The unions and their contracts have very little to do with that question.

*NO CARRIER* -- A Naval Aviator's worst nightmare!
User currently offlineLMP737 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 13, posted (10 years 8 months 4 weeks 1 day 15 hours ago) and read 3229 times:

Here in the states having the words "union budget" and "secret" in the same sentence is looked upon with suspicion. This is mainly due to past ties between organized crime and organized labor. At any time I can see the financials of my local. The international has to make it's financials available to the membership as well. That's how I knew about the raise various union officers received last year.

User currently offlineLMP737 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 14, posted (10 years 8 months 4 weeks 1 day 14 hours ago) and read 3222 times:

To answer AAR90's question, it's easier for an airline to replace a mechanic. If the mechanics go on strike the airline can go out and hire a bunch of mechanics put them through a week long gen fam and put them to work. It's a bit harder to do that with pilots. First they have to have the hours, second the airline has to get them type rated. Even if the pilots type rated he will still have to go through the airlines training. Bad time to find out a pilots skills are lacking at 35000ft. This gives the pilots union leverage at the negotiating table.

Now while the union and the contract have little to do with that fact the union and how you are represented has a lot to do with ones income. Ask any pilot if they think they would rather have their own work group or be part of several I think most would say their own. The way I see it AMT's would be making much more than they are now if they had not been sitting at the same table as the rampers, cleaners etc, etc. The union would not have to worry about appeasing all these different work groups.

User currently offlineGreasespot From Canada, joined Apr 2004, 3089 posts, RR: 20
Reply 15, posted (10 years 8 months 3 weeks 6 days 1 hour ago) and read 3070 times:

I have worked for both a union and an employee assoc.(quasi union)...The union left the AME's high and dry. The union had to look after it's largest group which was the rampers. We had guys loading bags making the same money as the guys releasing the log books. We dumped the union and formed an association. Now we are the largest group and look after our interests. It is not perfect but I can say it is better than how it was.

As to the solidarity I have to agree. Pilots tend to stick together. If there was a strike the pilots would all respect it. I sometimes wonder what would happen if there was a strike in our barganing unit how many would actually respect it.


Sometimes all you can do is look them in the eye and ask " how much did your mom drink when she was pregnant with you?"
User currently offline737doctor From United States of America, joined Mar 2001, 1332 posts, RR: 38
Reply 16, posted (10 years 8 months 3 weeks 5 days 16 hours ago) and read 3025 times:

This is a very interesting topic and I would like to give a detailed answer as some of you have made some excellent points, but I don't have time. So, instead I'd like to quickly add something from my perspective.

During our last contract negotiations, all the mechanics talked about unity and solidarity. "Take a stand for a hundred grand," they said. The company's best, last & final offer was flatly refused by a 98% vote. The matter went to mediation and the company and union came to a T/A that favored the more senior mechanics. Suddenly, their tune changed. It was if they were saying, "I got mine, screw everyone else." A rift developed within the mechanics' group. Much heated discussion resulted; fingers were pointed. Ultimately, the T/A was voted in.

Now I'm sure that many of you know that any company will offer only enough to get a 50% +1 vote. And that's pretty much what they did. They're not concerned if everyone likes the contract; they just want a slight majority. I can't blame them, that's smart business.

And to be fair, I believe that a lot of the people just wanted the whole matter to be over. Also, some mechanics (like myself) thought about the long term impact on the company and voted accordingly. But I have no doubt that lots of the more senior guys voted completely out of self interest. It was disturbing to see how quickly their mood changed and how quickly our "unity" and resolve evaporated. Also stories circulated about guys who had already spent their retro pay on "toys" and needed the money.

So, I believe that pilots are more apt to stick together. They see themselves as more of a brotherhood or fraternity. I think that the airlines recognize that and approach negotiations with the pilots' group differently, whereas if they can spread a little dissention among the mechanics or throw some of them a bone, they can get them to fold more easily.

Anyway, that's been my experience...

Patrick Bateman is my hero.
User currently offlineStarline From Germany, joined Nov 2005, 5 posts, RR: 0
Reply 17, posted (10 years 8 months 3 weeks 5 days 15 hours ago) and read 3022 times:

I really much appreciate your opinions. Mechanics in Germany don't have the reputation pilots have. E.g. you just have to wear your stripes on your blouse and everyone knows you're a pilot and you hear: "wow" etc. Also pilots have their "union" (named: "Vereinigung Cockpit") which has a really "good" reputation and also influence among the unions and government as it sometimes seems.
We mechanics are minor. There's a "start-up" union called A.R.T.E. (Aircraft Release by Technicians and Engineers), but they're doing almost nothing beside taking 1% of your wages for being a member. Their website has been unchanged for more than half a year now. When will all this change ?
I think no one listens to them (are they talking ?)


User currently offlineSrbmod From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 18, posted (10 years 8 months 3 weeks 5 days 13 hours ago) and read 3003 times:

Sometimes, the pilots and mechanics do end up coming together in solidarity against an airlines' management. Eastern Airlines' pilots went on strike in support of the IAM-represented Machinists' (which included MX workers, rampers, stores, and a few other job classes) strike, mainly as a way of giving the finger to Eastern's management (mainly Frank Lorenzo, who as many people know, was not exactly a friend of Labor Unions). They got what they wanted, Frank Lorenzo was forced out of Eastern by the bankruptcy judge when the airline was forced into CH. 11 by the strike, but it was too little too late to save the airline.

User currently offlineLMP737 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 19, posted (10 years 8 months 3 weeks 4 days 21 hours ago) and read 2949 times:


Sounds like par for the course. Airlines are very shrewd when they play one side off against the other. Sometimes I suspect the upper-leadership in the union goes along so they can go back to their six figure a year salary and not be bothered by negotiations.

Here at AA the big rivalry is between the line stations and base maintenance in TUL. The Tulsa local has the most power of all the locals. Since the cost of living in Tulsa is low the company knows that if they do just enough to keep them happy most any contract will get passed. Like I said, quite shrewd.

User currently offlineAvioniker From United States of America, joined Dec 2001, 1109 posts, RR: 11
Reply 20, posted (10 years 8 months 3 weeks 4 days 20 hours ago) and read 2944 times:

There's a lot to be said for being with a "small" airline without a union telling me how to think.
Of course I had to sacrifice the privelege of paying exhorbitant Missouri Income Taxes every year to live in Las Vegas
Oh well we all have to make sacrifices for our craft...

One may educate the ignorance from the unknowing but stupid is forever. Boswell; ca: 1533
User currently offlineLMP737 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 21, posted (10 years 8 months 3 weeks 4 days 20 hours ago) and read 2939 times:


This may be a bit off the subject but what are Missouri's income tax rates and what do you have to make to be in the top bracket?

User currently offlineAvioniker From United States of America, joined Dec 2001, 1109 posts, RR: 11
Reply 22, posted (10 years 8 months 3 weeks 4 days 14 hours ago) and read 2907 times:

Very interesting article on the status of Mechanics in the US

We'll see about replaceability in the next couple of years.


One may educate the ignorance from the unknowing but stupid is forever. Boswell; ca: 1533
User currently offlineYikes! From Canada, joined Oct 2001, 284 posts, RR: 1
Reply 23, posted (10 years 8 months 2 weeks 4 days 11 hours ago) and read 2795 times:

Good discussion of a very sensitive subject. If I may, I'd like to offer the following to add to the reason why pilots seem to have a more together approach to the collective bargaining process.

First, in today's industry, it is the AME who should be able to write his/her own salary as it is increasingly difficult to find qualified AME's. Many countries now require AME wannabee's to go to school for two years before they can even touch an airframe. That certainly cannot be said for pilots in most countries, if my example can be used.

Notwithstanding this condition, it is often said in collective bargaining circles that people don't get what they should, they get what they bargain for.

Most pilot unions worldwide are comprised of, you guessed it, pilots.

Most AME groups around the world are represented by professional bargaining units, which may or may not contain a certain percentage of AME's.

All big traditional unions could give a hoot about the longterm wellfare of their members. Big unions are big business. Perhaps not-for-profit, or perhaps profitable in one way or another. If the dues stop, the representation stops. I saw this first-hand during the collapse of Canada 3000. The pilots were left high-and-dry to fend for themselves the day after the collapse. Even though having paid up to 3% of their salary for nearly two years to ALPA, the union was nowhere to be found after the collapse when the pilots needed help the most. Help in securing support from the government retraining department as a big "for instance".

That opinion might seem to run counter to what I alluded to earlier about pilots being in control of most pilot unions. Prior to being represented by ALPA, the Canada 3000 pilots had a reasonably effective in-house union. After the collapse of C3 and the seeming abandonment by ALPA, it was the left-overs of our old union that tried to stitch things together. Even today, nearly 3 years after the fact, there is still a former C3'er who keeps tabs on everyone's whereabouts and communicates current addresses/phone numbers to our now defunct membership.

But I digress...

To answer MD11Engineer, I think the key to answering your question is in finding out just how well an outsider can best represent your interests, especially if one group's interests conflict with another. Kind of like a divorcing couple in a particularly bitter dispute both use the same lawyer.


Best Regards,


User currently offlineLMP737 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 24, posted (10 years 8 months 2 weeks 3 days 22 hours ago) and read 2761 times:

"You've got to look beyond the money," said Joyce Gioia, an employee-retention expert and president of management consulting firm The Herman Group. "Money may be a contributing factor, but other factors appear to be more important than money, like training, culture, and employer relationships."

When I someone talks like this all I hear is "We still really don't want to pay for these skills so we try and spruce things up by talking about training, culture and employer relationships". Soory lady but it is the money. While factors such as working holidays, nights and weekends along with cyclical nature of the industry play a role in peoples decision to leave MONEY is still # 1. Not many people are going to leave a job and take a $20000 cut in pay. They leave because they are going to make more, not less. In fact every person I know who has left this career field went onto make a whole lot more.

This ties into the issue of unions and representation. IMO the big unions such as the IAM, IBT and TWU have failed this profession miserably. When I see carpenters, plumbers, electricians, ASE mechanics, brick layers, computer programmers etc, etc making more money than aircraft maintenance technicians my opinion is only reinforced.

25 Airplay : Everyone, including those that are directly associated with aviation, to those who have never enjoyed a rided on an airplane, are still facinated with
26 LMP737 : Making the kind of money a pilot makes is not the issue for me at least. And while there are a few A&P who go on to become pilots most who leave the p
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