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Mode Aviation
Reference No. AR201400015
Date reported 26 February 2014
Concern title The stress caused by the handling by management of major changes within the airline
Concern summary

The concern related to the stress placed on flight crews due to the way senior management are handling the management of economic pressures.

Industry / Operation affected Aviation: Air transport
Concern subject type Aviation: Flight crew

Reporter's concern

The reporter expressed a safety concern regarding the pressure being put on flight crews due to the way senior management are handling the management of economic pressures.

The reporter stated that staff members are all under unprecedented pressure, due to the way management have been briefing politicians and media outlets about the future direction of the company without pre briefing staff members. The is against a backdrop of absurd employee engagement programs and surveys, and coming hard on the heels of the well documented lockout, it is a testament to the professionalism of the crew that there has been no serious incident, with the amount of psychological pressure they have been collectively placed under.

The reporter has stated that they believe this to be a serious threat to aviation safety, which seems of no concern to senior management, and has been ongoing for a period of years. The communications strategy seems heavily tilted toward commercial considerations, at the expense of safety. The reporter does not think flight ops management are any better informed than the crew, and seem themselves to be in an invidious position.

Operator's response (Operator 1)

Our operations team understand the concerns expressed by the reporter due to the transformation of the organisation and the uncertainty that this may engender. A vigorous communications program is being undertaken to continuously inform all employees and address any issues. These communications are subject to mandatory reporting requirements and the influences of significant media speculation. The organisational transformation is being undertaken through established change management processes to ensure that ongoing safety assurance is being maintained. This includes daily reviews of risks and key safety indicators. The Regulator remains informed of and continue to review the activities of Flight Operations during this time of change.

In addition to Flight Operations initiatives our safety department has commenced enhanced oversight of safety critical operations across all parts of the airline in regard to the impact of the change management process.  Additional employee assistance and support programs are also being offered to all staff during the transformation process.

Regulator's response (Regulator 1)

CASA has reviewed the REPCON and the response by the operator. CASA recognises that the significant change being undertaken by the operator and the associated uncertainty this creates for staff is a risk factor to the organisation. Consequently CASA has increased its oversight of the operator during this period of change to ensure that the required safety standards are maintained.

Increased oversight activities includes assessment of their risk assessments and change management plans; monitoring of safety data including Airservices Australia Cirris reports, ATSB reports, CASA surveillance results, and internal safety data; increased surveillance on the ramp, terminal area, line and base maintenance, and domestic and international flight operations; increased engagement with staff including senior management, operations management, safety department, and line staff including pilots.

Oversight activities have confirmed that the operator has identified the risks associated with the current change and is managing the change appropriately. CASA engagement with the operator’s pilots has confirmed there is concern about the uncertainty however flight deck surveillance has also confirmed that the pilots continue to undertake their responsibilities to the safety standards expected by CASA and the airline.

CASA continues to focus oversight activities on identified areas of change.

 
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Last update 15 May 2015