Opinion Editorial On Non Compete Agreements
Opinion Editorial – written by Eric Weaver: Like so many others I have been sitting back, occasionally hitting the “Like” or “Share” button as I’ve read the various articles about non compete agreements and corresponding lawsuits. I have a hard time defending either the pilots or the companies.
The Pilots may be the more egregiously harmed by this practice but they are not blameless; they signed the agreement. The one thing that is certain they are the ones with the least amount of power and have the most to lose. As we all know picking on the less powerful is never becoming and in many ways is indicative of our current broader societal discourse.
I can see reasons for a pilot signing a non-compete such as having low time or being inexperienced. And I cannot fault a company from wanting to protect their investment. Where there is a breakdown is how long does this commitment last and how is it harming the industry?
As a Part 119 person for another 135 company I understand the frustration of hiring, training, and then losing a pilot. It is though, the nature of our chosen business. Unfortunately, in my experience that it is more likely that I will have to dismiss a pilot for other reasons. Yes, management does occasionally have to release employees. What would happen to these agreements if an employee was fired? Are they still binding?
The Real Struggle: Filing Lawsuits
What I am really struggling with is filing lawsuits against pilots after they have worked and spent a year or two working for the company. It seems to me that it is very short sighted to attack the people that have been building your business and reputation. How does that effect the pilots that are currently on the line? From my perspective it cannot be positive. Line pilots are the ambassadors for our businesses. They are the recruiters for our next generation of pilots. Suing pilots is counterproductive.
As a chief pilot it’s always risky when you take on a new pilot, train them and invest in them, but isn’t that what every employer in every highly skilled business does? I always have a discussion with my new hires stating that my expectation is that they will be with the company at least a year. So far I have not been disappointed.
Most of the time even when they do choose to leave many decide that they would like to return a year or two later. I myself am living proof of that, having left and returned.
I asked earlier how is this harming the industry? I think there are a several of ways.
- It removes a group of pilots from the already small pilot pool of Seaplane flying.
- It keeps wages artificially low for the least experienced AND eventually for the experienced pilot who wants to continue flying seaplanes but cannot achieve their personal financial goals at their current company.
- If the practice continues it will eventually result in one of the many transportation unions trying to organize pilots. (Maybe it’s time for something like this?) This could be another long winded discussion.
One thing is sure, though: As long as this practice of limiting peoples career choices continues, there is one benefit: My wages will continue to grow at a faster than normal industry rate. So I guess for that part, “Thanks”…
Eric Weaver is a Commercial Seaplane Pilot holding ATP SEL/ SES MEL/MES and also a CFI/CFII and MEI. Over his career in the Seaplane industry he has accumulated approximately 6.000 hours of which 5.000 have been on Seaplanes. Eric currently serves a Part 135 Chief Pilot in the Seaplane industry.