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Are We Professionals? Minimize

People on the street may not be in awe of airline pilots anymore but they still command respect in the workplace. What fixed-wing trainee doesn’t aspire to become an Air Canada pilot?

To preserve that respect and to champion the rights of their members, North American airline pilots organized themselves into professional associations long ago, and they continue to reap the benefits of their efforts, not only in remuneration but respect and active participation in their career development.

What qualifications do airline pilots possess that we, as IFR offshore helicopter pilots do not? Not a thing. We are eminently as qualified as any airline pilot working the line, yet we enjoy few of the benefits or respect we deserve.

There have been many discussions on the merits of becoming deemed a “professional.”  This quote comes from a report of the US Postal Service:

“Being viewed as professional in our society is a badge of honor. But achieving professional status under the Fair Labor Standards Act [FLSA] . . . is something quite different, for it means losing protection under our nation’s most basic labor standards laws, which have guaranteed American workers . . . overtime protection since 1938 . . . Stated differently, ‘winning’ professional recognition under the Part 541 2 regulations means ‘losing’ important legal and economic rights. Of necessity, then, the professional exemption must be examined closely and construed narrowly.”

The State of California defines a professional as any employee who meets all of the following requirements:

(a) Who is licensed or certified by the State of California and is primarily engaged in the practice of one of the following recognized professions: law, medicine, dentistry, optometry, architecture, engineering, teaching, or accounting; or

(i) Work requiring knowledge of an advanced type in a held of science or learning customarily acquired b a prolonged course of specialized intellectual instruction and study, as distinguished from a general academic education and from an apprenticeship, and from training in the performance of routine mental, manual, or physical processes, or work that is an essential part of or necessarily incident to any of the above work; 

(ii) Work that is original and creative...

(iii Whose work is predominantly intellectual and varied in character (as opposed to routine mental, manual, mechanical or physical works and is of such character that the output produced or the result accomplished cannot be standardized in relation to a given period of time.

(c) Who customarily and regularly exercises discretion and independent judgment in the performance of duties set forth in subparagraphs (a) and (b).

In Canada, the definition of a professional is very similar. Here is an excerpt from the Professional Employees Association of British Columbia:

 "Membership shall be open to: Employees who are licensed to practice under any Act... or come within the following definition of a professional employee:

 An employee engaged in the exercise of a predominantly intellectual skill in which he or she uses discretion and judgment and the results of which cannot necessarily be measured or standardized by units or by time and who has been qualified by knowledge of an advanced type in a held of science or learning customarily, but not necessarily, acquired by a prolonged course of specialized intellectual instruction and study in or with an institution of higher learning or a hospital."

In the United States, being designated a "professional" excludes you from participating in any benefits acquired by a union or association, but in Canada professionals can organize and collectively bargain for improved working conditions.

The Canada Album Code defines an employee as "any person employed by an employer and includes a dependent contractor and a private constable, but does not include a person who performs management functions or is employed in a confidential capacity in matters relating to industrial relations.

Professionals are employees within the meaning of the Code... and the Code suggests that professionals should belong to a bargaining unit with other professionals... "

So what does this mean to us? It means no matter how we see ourselves; we have the right to see representation.