Crocodile Tear Time?

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I’ve written before about wages (here’s one example– or you could buy my book [paperback or Kindle] 🙂 ) and the purported claims that employers can’t find qualified employees.  I’m not going to say that all the jobs offered are scooped up on the spot.  After all, should an entrepreneur decide to build a new pharmaceutical plant in the middle of Kansas, I would not be surprised that s/he could not find a qualified Regulatory specialist within 25 miles.  But, one could be found- and I’m sure someone could be willing to move to their location.

And, therein lies the real issue.  Just because an employer decides that they have a need for a PhD Chemical Engineer (I will keep the name private so as to not embarrass them or demonstrate their abject stupidity), does not mean that there are no qualified folks in that specific area.  After all, that firm actually expected to pay all of $ 50K.  A salary below the going rate for a BS Chem E, let alone a PhD.

So, who’s at fault?  The potential employee who refuses to work for such a menial pay?  Or, the firm for being so chintzy?   (If you listened to certain politicians, you would think that the fact that a job is offered at any pay means the folks must be lazy to not scoop it up.)

That same principle (I also discussed what Boeing is trying to do along the same lines) applies to the aviation industry.  It’s an industry I’ve followed because I used to fly 250,000 miles a year- and served as an airport administrator for four years. I learned a lot from speaking to pilots and working with the various folks within the aviation industry.

Back two decades ago, the airlines didn’t have to train pilots- they stole them from the military.  Which meant they were probably better trained than any other avenue open to the firms.   In the military, a nascent pilot currently (I don’t’ have the rates from back “when”) makes about $30K a year, with a top pay of around $ 90K.   Commercial pilots got paid better- then.  (They still may make more, but their benefits have been slashed.)

Now, the airlines are screaming they can’t get pilots. Couple this problem with an aging pilot base at the major airlines- where pilots must retire at 65.

Aviation Wages

Republic (a regional carrier) mothballed some 27 planes recently (10% of its fleet), due to the dearth of pilots at the firm.  It’s also one of the reasons United/Continental abandoned the Cleveland hub (ok, it’s only slashed 60% of its flights- but that really is abandoning the hub)- because Republic is not supplying their feeder flights there.

First of all, the military is not training as many pilots as before.  So the pool of potential ‘snares’ is lower.  And, the military has been offering a cool quarter million bucks to retain their pilots, to retain the value of all the training they offered them.  Which means the pilots’ incentive to leave is attenuated.  If one tried the commercial route to be flight-trained (at a flight aviation school), the bill can top $ 100K.  It’s even more at great institutions like Embry-Riddle.

Of course, you’ll laugh (or cry) when you hear that the airlines want to pay their pilots all of $ 22.4K.  Some try to pay even less- like $ 15K.  (That’s what you make working full time for McDonalds at minimum wage!)  And, then these aviation companies complain no one wants the job.   Oh, and the Feds have now finally upped the requirements that pilots must have 1500 flight hours of experience (from all of 250)!

Or,  maybe would you consider to fly Great Lakes Aviation?  The carrier that now only has 100 pilots (down from 300).  And, it gutting its planes to remove 10 seats from the 19 seat commuter planes it operates, so that a pilot doesn’t need the higher 1500 hour standard, but only the old standard of 250.  (Oh, they also start their pilot pay at the grand sum of $ 16.5K!)

More importantly, would you want the pilot of your airplane to be considered so poorly that s/he would work for such wages?  Or would you want to entrust your life to someone with a lot more qualifications?

It’s time for businesses to pay reasonable wages.  And, stop complaining they can’t find employees for the peanuts they hope to pay.

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