SIA pilots' union committee resolves year of turbulence

PHOTO: SIA pilots' union committee resolves year of turbulence

A YEAR-LONG discord within the Singapore Airlines branch of the pilots' union has ended with a walkover for one of two opposing camps. A faction led by former branch chairman William Teng triumphed after the opposition decided not to contest fresh elections following a decision to dissolve the 20-member committee.

The change at the SIA arm - the biggest of three branches within the Air Line Pilots Association-Singapore (Alpa-S) - has also had an impact on the umbrella committee.

Several key officers from the 28-member Alpa-S executive council have been replaced by members of the new SIA committee, The Straits Times has learnt.

The Alpa-S council is made up of members from the SIA union, as well as from the SilkAir and SIA Cargo branches.

With a new team in place at the SIA branch, the Alpa-S council met on Monday to elect its new office-bearers.

Captain Teng was elected vice-president (industrial), the No. 2 seat after council president.

Trouble at the SIA branch started soon after its committee was formed about a year ago.

In March, several office-bearers led by Capt Teng called for its dissolution, citing the inability of the team to work together. It was the first time an elected SIA committee had called for its own dissolution.

In 2003, tensions between pilots and the SIA management over retrenchments and pay cuts in the wake of the Sars epidemic led to a dramatic and much-publicised ousting of the Alpa-S executive council.

Capt Teng and his supporters are back in the SIA committee after the walkover victory.

Captain Mok Hin Choon, leader of the Alpa-S council, told The Straits Times: "I sense a renewed energy and enthusiasm in this new group, which is encouraging."

SIA faces challenging times amid intense competition from other carriers and a slowdown in important markets such as Europe and the United States.

Last month, the airline reported that operating profit for the year to March 31 fell by 19.8 per cent to $229.2 million.

The net profit of $378.9 million was 12.8 per cent higher from a year ago, but mainly on the back of an increase in non-operating items such as a surplus on the sale of aircraft and spare engines.

On whether the recent discord within the SIA branch could impact camaraderie among the pool of about 2,400 pilots, Capt Mok said: "I don't foresee that happening." A pilot who spoke on condition of anonymity said: "Bottom line, we have a new committee that walked in without a contest. Hard to say if it has a strong mandate to lead."

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