CHIRP – Pilot concern over engineer redundancy
The aim of the Confidential Reporting Programme for Aviation and Maritime (CHIRP) is to contribute to the enhancement of aviation safety in the UK and maritime safety worldwide, by providing a totally independent confidential (not anonymous) reporting system for all individuals employed in or associated with these industries.
Report Text: After finishing a shift we disembarked the aircraft and spoke to the engineer. He mentioned that he had just been made redundant and was understandably upset. He then proceeded to the aircraft to begin his maintenance tasks for the night. Without wishing to cast aspersions on the competence and professionalism of any engineer, I found myself being concerned at the situation. My concern relates chiefly to the mental health and wellbeing of an individual after life-altering news such as redundancy, and the affect it will have on safety critical maintenance tasks. Is it industry practise to dismiss someone and have them continue to look after the maintenance of an aircraft?
The reporter also submitted an ASR through his airline operating company system.
Maintenance and Repair Organisation (MRO) Comment: As a result of the downturn in our industry we have had to make the tough decision to reduce our capacity to align with the reduced demand in load from our customers. All our engineers in the UK were placed at risk of redundancy on 2nd July and, on the 31st July, they were formally informed of the outcome of the consultations. Throughout the process, our emphasis with all our employees was to assess their mental health and wellbeing and advise them of the employee-assist helpline that is independent confidential.
Airline Comment: We are aware of this report and it is logged in our safety system. The location in question is supported by a Maintenance and Repair Organisation (MRO) and, interestingly enough, is not a location impacted by any operational changes by our airline. We have spoken with the MRO about this report, and they have informed us that in fact they are restructuring their presence because of other 3rd-party work. From our perspective, on our return to flying we reactivated our liaison engineers who oversee our operational bases, and [Location] has been visited 3 times since restart. Manning levels are all confirmed as per contract and there have been no reported issues by the engineers on station.helpline that is provided for them if required. We have received some good feedback from individuals and the trade union on how the process was run.
Post-confirmation to the individuals that had unfortunately been made redundant and served notice on 31st July, we had a few engineers that requested that they continue to work whilst they can, and they and others worked in August to support one of our customers. The rest were placed on furlough, or left on furlough, through their notice period. There are no engineers at work during their notice period now, and no plans to have them back. The engineers that worked were fully assessed and, during conversations with the station managers, if there were any concerns they were stood down – there were a few that felt they could not work, this was accepted, and they were left at home. We monitored the risk throughout the process during the consultation, and managers and HR were present during all meetings, including individual consultations. If any concerns were raised then we discussed and made decisions from this, which led to us removing some out of the workplace. No member of the team was placed under any pressure to work and, if at any time a member of the team felt they weren’t in a position that they wanted to attend a shift or more, then this was fully understood and accepted as the safety of them and that of our customers is our top priority. There have been instances where team members have felt under stress, and each of them was given time off until such time as they felt they were in a position to return.
We have a ‘STOP’ campaign that can be used at any time, and this is promoted and highlighted as part of the refresher induction training that all members of the team receive after returning to work post-furlough. This refresher induction training pack has been put together to ensure that all our engineers are put in the right mindset prior to coming back into work, and the main focus of this training is OSHE (Occupational/Operational Safety, Health, and Environment ) and Quality. This has again received good feedback from those that received it after being on furlough for a few months.
We believe that the process was robust. The engineers we are talking about have been in the industry for a long time and, if required, would use the STOP campaign, and a couple did. We don’t believe the engineers that did work in August after being informed they were being made redundant were a greater risk than the others.
CHIRP Comment: Firstly, our thanks to the pilot concerned for raising this issue and we commend him for his concern for the engineer’s wellbeing. The best people to recognise a colleague with issues that could lead to a related problem are the people they work with, and this report absolutely supports our plea that in these unusual circumstances we all take the time to think about the stresses and pressures that others might be under. During our investigations with the MRO it was noted that all staff working for this organisation were placed at ‘Risk of Redundancy’ in July, but that no staff members were actually made redundant until August, which means that the individual concerned in this report was in the same position as all of his colleagues by being ‘at risk’ but not actually redundant at the time the report was submitted. Regardless of occupation, the process of redundancy is the same, and staff must be put ‘at risk’ at the start of the formal process of consultation and selection; not to do so can have consequences for the company concerned. In this instance, it was clear that the MRO did their utmost to manage the Human Factors implications by putting things in place to monitor and support staff. CHIRP also discussed this report with the airline concerned, who had received their own safety report on which they conducted their own investigation. As a result, they also mitigated the possible risk through increased oversight of the MRO at a point in time when all airlines were trying to cut back on expenditure. None of us want to see staff being made redundant but it is a fact of life, and this report highlights to all engineering managers that such activities need careful management of both the human and safety aspects, and that this can be done in an empathetic, safe and compliant manner. Our thanks are due to both the Airline and MRO involved for their openness during this investigation of the report.