Firstly, lets all strive to make a fair and equitable market for all Helicopter pilots.
The vast majority of operators I suggest would pay at or near the award wages for a low time entry level pilot.
Very few operators will exploit low time pilots by offering pittance or subjecting that employee to conditions far far below what could be deemed fair and reasonable. If so, they are trading with a marked dollar bill and someone will catch up with them sooner or later. Exploitation of workers is a world-wide non-industry specific phenomena and should be investigated at every instance. But....
A few employees will accept being exploited with conditions far below what they even consider fair and reasonable, doing so in the knowledge that they are gaining hours, experience etc. In some ways this is a mutually beneficial trade, the operator knows the employee wont stay around too long after gaining hours, and the employee wont hang around longer than necessary to prop up a business, who if per employee are screwing say, 10-20k out of each to maintain a profitable business, then we all know how fragile this business model will actually be. So who should be protected from who? In some ways then the employee should be protected from themselves. Ponder that thought.
HIP said “ And because you have just spent $60,000 doesn't mean you can demand a specific wage”
An there-in lays a problem. We all jump in following the dream knowing that we spend $60k to earn, um $42k to start with! For that, we wash helicopters, toilets, load pax, answer phones etc. That just doesnt make economic sense does it? So the $18k deficit must be the “always wanted to dream / fun factor job therefore I will forgo some income to start with”
We go in heart first knowing this, and if our circumstances are such that we cant survive on this amount, some other personal decisions need to be made. Starting to use the head. If you are good enough to sell yourself to an employer low time for $60k well done to you. If you arent and will accept something far less, well done to you as well, may it work out for the best.
A POSSIBLE SOLUTION!
Maybe we are all focussing way too much on the magical $42k award issue. Maybe treating the whole pilot training/'exploitation' issue should be considered more like a brick layer, plumber etc. through an apprenticeship type set-up (yes, for some the job they left). The employer, government and employee all share in the cost and responsibilities of training one up to a line pilot stage. I am sure most would agree that, the similarity between traditional apprenticeship roles and low time pilots is uncanny. However, earning 'decent' money after an apprenticeship is an one incentive to learn. Compare this to a pilot having to stump up $60k before the beginning of their 'apprenticeship', that is a bitter pill for trainee pilots to contemplate swallowing. That in itself leads some to an attitude of “I am a pilot now, I spent $60k, I want a return on my investment asap” In some respects you cant blame them. If people think about what a low time pilot is subjected to in his/her daily responsibilities then an regulated apprenticeship system is a closer fit than you may realise. As far as pilots go, it would be far more equitable for all concerned.
Market forces ultimately dictate how much everyone gets paid. An award is one mechanism to protect what on gets paid, but it is not necessarily the true price the market clears at and nor should it be considered the only figure one should utilize. Competition for training, results in a churn out of pilots far in excess of demand given low natural attrition and also considering the average annual growth in the helicopter fleet. The results will continue to place downward pressure on rates of pay for pilots and ensure (if nothing else changes) that low time pilots get paid low wages, it really is as simple as that.
In a competitive market, the helicopter business is a high cost, marginal business and a pilot is just one necessary but variable cost to that business.
Said my piece. I would be happy to engage in constructive and respectful debate on the merits or lack thereof in what I have said, however excreta, spewing green men, and other frivolous antics will be ignored! Lets lift the bar.
Apologise for an typos anyone finds...you do know what I mean, you fill in the missing character and claim the gold star!