BoeingGoingGone, InnocuousFox, et al,
I don't want you to step out of this discussion or shut up, because like I said in my first post, balance is a good thing.
In other industries, if you have a college education, advanced degrees, and a good background in your field you can put yourself out to a number of companies and hopefully find your niche. At that experience level you may find yourself supervising a number of people from day one, and a nice paycheck for compensation. As you gain experience you may look for other companies to work for, and start even farther up their corporate ladder.
As an airline pilot, I have a bachelors degree, years of advanced training, paid nearly $50k and several years in up-front training cost just to get in the door, and then I started out making $19/hr (for about 75 hours a month) at my first co-pilot job flying a Saab 340. I was jointly responsible for the lives of up to 33 people several times a day, and I was happy to do it. I learned more about airline operations, sharpened my skills, and became a better pilot. However when I moved to a different airline, despite my experience, I started at the bottom again just like every other pilot. That is the nature of the industry. Now flying 767's I'm responsible for the lives of up to 250 people at a time. That responsibility is a big one, and I am compensated accordingly.
Now, see it from the company's perspective. We are an expense, and just like any other expense, they need to minimize it. If we didn't have the protection of the unions the company would see fit to get rid of us when we became too expensive for them. There are other lower paid but (to the airline) just as qualified pilots farther down the seniority list that can do the same job. If the airline cast off the senior pilots, those pilots would have to start all over again at the bottom at some other airline. You can't carry your seniority over to a new airline, even though you may have the experience and ability of a senior pilot.
And our careers are limited. Once we spend the time and money to become airline pilots we have on average less than 30 years before we are required to retire at age 60. The airlines don't care though; we are just a cog in the wheel. Which is why we banded together to make sure we can speak with one voice and help control our destiny. We absolutely DON'T
want to run the airline out of business. If we do, we are back to square one. We pay large amounts of money in monthly dues so the union can hire professionals that analyze the airline, its financial status, and can tell us very accurately what is realistic as far as what the airline can and should be able to pay us for our services. We don't ask for the moon, and we do expect the company to try to withhold every possible cent from what they pay us.
Airline executives do NOT
say: "Oh man, our pilots make the smoothest landings in the industry. I think we'll give them a big fat paycheck this month because they are so talented and doing so well."
Airline executives DO
say: "Fellow shareholders, I am happy to report that our airline made a profit the last two quarters, and the dividends will be paid out as expected."
So no matter how good you do your job as a pilot (or almost any other union covered position), they will not reward you based on a sliding scale of your abilities. We say "we will do A, B, and C for you, if you pay us $X." Having the ability of everyone that does that job at a company speak in one voice allows that exchange with management to happen.
[Edited 2004-04-08 11:29:03]
One smooth landing is skill. Two in a row is luck. Three in a row and someone is lying.