Dutch Airline Pilots Association
(Vereniging Nederlandse Verkeersvliegers - VNV)
The terms of employment and the working conditions for airline pilots that meanwhile seem to be taken for granted did not come about as a matter of course. In the 90 years of its existence, the VNV has played a major role in promoting the interests of this occupational group and its professionalisation. And it still stands, without abatement, for fixing attention on air safety, terms of employment and working conditions on behalf of the professionals that it represents. Members contribute valuable knowledge and experience from their daily practice to the union and professional association that the VNV is. And so the VNV has always had the necessary influence. And it should stay that way. Especially in your interest.
The ‘spirit’ of the past is still alive and kicking
The Dutch Airline Pilots Association came about out of sheer necessity. In the year that it was founded – 1929 – the risks of flying were considerably greater than they are today. The working conditions were often abominable. It is only logical that pilots joined forces back then and ensured that they could leave their families behind well-cared-for. This proved to be no luxury, as almost all of the pilots from the very beginning were killed in accidents on the job.
Fortunately, a lot has changed for the better since then. But the ‘spirit’ of that age, joining forces, standing by one another and serving aviation safety together has remained alive and kicking for all those years. That characterises the nature and the strength of the VNV.
“United we stand, divided we fall”
Four practical goals
The following practical goals are characteristic of the VNV:
- promoting the safety of aviation
- creating good employment conditions
- increasing the professional level of the airline pilots
- promoting the individual interests of the members
The VNV achieves its goals with the support of more than 5,000 members, almost all of whom are (or have been) employed by Dutch airline companies. Being very well organised is an important factor where it concerns promoting interests and exercising influence. Let's make no bones about it. But the ‘power of numbers’ is not a means in itself to achieve one's goals. The VNV has more faith in the strength of the argument, as much better intrinsic results can be achieved by taking the road of constructive consultations. 5,000 members comprise a wealth of knowledge of and experience in aviation. Various active members are also highly skilled in other areas. And so the VNV has a whole range of disciplines at its disposal, varying between technology and economy to medical aspects and accident analysis. And should some type of expertise be lacking, then the VNV will supplement the lack by having its members participate in training courses or calling upon the know-how of parties elsewhere.
A genuine union
The VNV is a genuine union that stands for above-average employment conditions for airline pilots. And not unsuccessfully, as a series of CBAs have been concluded for the VNV-members since the very first CBA at KLM in 1969. The VNV also succeeded in collectively improving the employment conditions of smaller airline companies.
The initial focus in a collective bargaining agreement is generally on the salary. But in the course of time, the VNV managed to lay down various significant schemes for pilots in CBAs. Examples include the Pilot Career Scheme (RVL), pension scheme, Work- and Rest period scheme (WRR), legal aid in appeal cases and protection relating to one's legal status in the event of disciplinary measures. Many CBAs furthermore include a redundancy scheme, regulations concerning the competence assessment for one's position and an aviation safety assessment.
If necessary, and if the VNV is convinced that its demands are reasonable, then it will not avoid a confrontation. It proved necessary a number of times in the history of the VNV to enforce the negotiations with specific action.
Involved professional association
As a professional association, the VNV is constantly working to improve aviation safety and the professionalism of airline pilots. That is both a technical matter as well as a matter of job-specific intrinsic aspects. The VNV is an up-to-date knowledge centre to that end. The active input stems from committees that engage themselves particularly in, for example, aviation-technical aspects, work- and rest periods, training and evaluation, aviation-medical aspects and accident/incident inspections.
Moreover, the VNV supports the work of the Independent Confidential Team Civilian Aviation and it was partly responsible for the ‘Critical Incident Response Program’ (assisting pilots following a traumatic event). The VNV provides powerful individual and legal support for its members.
On an aviation-technical level, the VNV has contributed to the coming about of legislation in that area, the solution to collisions with birds and wake-turbulence and it contributes through its international contacts and from the perspective of pilots to Boeing and Airbus concerning the design and use of new aeroplanes.
The dual foundation of union and professional association allows for a unique cross-pollination. Specialist knowledge from the professional association is indispensable in reaching good agreements concerning terms of employment.
The VNV also maintains contacts with colleague-organisations abroad. The association is co-founder of IFALPA, the International Federation of Pilots Associations, and of the ECA, the European Cockpit Association. Through IFALPA, the VNV can exercise influence on the ICAO, the International Civil Aviation Organisation, and the IATA, the International Airline Transport Association. Through the ECA, the VNV can influence European legislation and regulations, among other things.
The VNV also maintains good contacts with other pilot associations, such as SNPL Air France ALPA and the American US ALPA.
In this way, the VNV can benefit from the knowledge and know-how of colleagues all across the world. The support of our international colleagues abroad proved very important in a number of conflicts with employers.
Taking into account what members want
The organisation of the VNV is a reflection of the members and their origin on all levels. Important organs are the board and the member councils. The members elect a president and a vice president every two years. They in turn choose the remaining board members. Each sub-group is represented in the board.
The board members are exempted from their administrative tasks for certain periods of time; they remain active as pilots. The advantage of combining work with administrative tasks is that the board members do not lose contact with the world of aviation and that they know what's what from experience. This is precisely what makes pilots excellent negotiators where it concerns their terms of employment.
Members also make frequent use of the possibility to make one's wants, needs and questions known via the website of the VNV.
The flow of information from the members is an important source of input for the board members. It enables them to gear policy to the ideas and needs of the members.
Why become a member of the VNV?
One interest is so crystal clear that it requires no further explanation. The VNV must remain capable of focussing as much attention as possible on the safety and working conditions of airline pilots. The more members it has, the greater the authority the VNV can exercise in fulfilling this role.
The role of the union is becoming increasingly more important with time. Partly due to the competition, airline companies are trying to limit costs as much as possible. As a result, employment conditions are constantly under pressure. The VNV is not blind to economic circumstances, nor to the importance of continuity, but it is very useful in this situation to offer a counterbalance and to mark off certain limits. Limits that can be laid down on the basis of sound knowledge acquired on a national and international level.
Due to the nature or their work, pilots are used to looking after themselves and taking responsibility. The VNV is convincing proof that they can also join forces and create a powerful organisation together. Airline pilots are members who are ideally in keeping with the goals of the VNV: they are professional, devoted to their work, motivated, persistent and loyal. They are professionals who are not inclined to turn their backs on their colleagues. Your VNV-colleagues are also counting on you!