The aviation sector is one of the sectors that has suffered the most during the closure of borders and the forced grounding of aircraft at airports. Thousands of people around the world who work directly or indirectly with the sector have lost their jobs. About forty airlines had to bow. The oldest tour operator in the world, Thomas Cook, has even gone bankrupt due to lack of funds necessary for its survival. Which means!
Among the security victims of this crisis, 105 cadet pilots divided into 3 promotions who have responded to a tender from RAM, which sought to recruit its future pilots. Among hundreds of applicants, only a handful were selected to take a two-year training course at one of the most prestigious aviation schools in Europe, the Ecole Nationale de l’Aviation Civile de Toulouse (Enac).
This education has a price: between 120,000 and 140,000 euros. An exorbitant amount for these young people. The RAM has found a solution to this obstacle: the future pilots will have to take out a bank loan to release this amount, as the RAM acts as a guarantor for the banking institutions. Pilot buds then repay this credit over ten years via deductions in their pilot salary. This is the normal recruitment procedure that the Moroccan aircraft manufacturer has introduced since 2016.
After the training, the apprentices go to Morocco to pass a practical internship, which according to the profiles lasts from six to twelve months. This is the case with Yassir, 32, one of the 68 interns. “Every driver has to go through this phase during their career,” he told Arab News in French. During this period, future pilots complete flight lessons, which then allow them to sign a permanent pilot contract (CDI) with the airline.
Except that with the Covid-19 crisis, events take a different turn: The 68 trainees are informed by RAM that they are under suspension until the sky clears. Same sentence for the 37 other cadet pilots who had just started their training at Enac
The students take their problems patiently, but the consequences are regrettable: The monthly grant of 10,000 DH paid to them during the course is frozen, as well as all the other benefits to which they were entitled.
And that’s just the beginning. “While waiting for news from RAM, we received another letter stating that the suspension would last two years,” says Yassir. “These letters state in black and white that as soon as activity resumes, we will resume our training under the same conditions,” he continues.
Except that in December 2021, RAM will contact the cadet pilots unofficially and invite them to an unofficial meeting. Future pilots come out amazed at what they are offered: They have to fill out an application to break their contracts with RAM and ask to be hired through another entity, a subsidiary of RAM, Atlas Multiservices (AMS), a specialized subsidiary of recruitment and employment on behalf of the group and third parties. This unit, created in 2006, usually takes care of recruiting cabin cleaning staff, but it is not an airline.
The new proposal seems dubious, it prescribes an estimated reduction of between 50% and 60% in salary, fewer days off and, above all, young pilots risk losing their international certificate by subscribing with this subsidiary. “A pilot has no right to be employed by an entity other than an airline,” our source assures.
The indignation is on everyone’s lips, and as our interlocutor challenges RAM’s CEO on this proposal, the latter would have the answer: “It’s what’s on the table, take it or leave it, it’s not negotiable. In addition, there is no many seats, only the first 30 who will request will be served, “says our source. Even worse, if the cadet pilots do not accept the offer, RAM will repay their credits with the banking institutions, but will take them to court.
David vs. Goliath
Yassir and his comrades can not believe it, but prefer not to believe in RAM’s threats. However, they become aware of this when four of their colleagues are actually prosecuted.
“Since you have not repaid your outstanding debt regarding the loan you received and which you have been notified by the bank, my client has [la RAM] was obliged in its capacity as guarantor to repay the bank under the guarantee agreement. She has the right to demand repayment of what she has paid for you from you “, states the document, which Arab News has consulted in French. In case of refusal, the pilots encounter “all the legal means that will be confiscated by the other party’s lawyers, able to preserve and guarantee their rights”.
Hostilities are clearly initiated. A blow to the head of these young people, who quickly organized themselves by setting up Coordination of RAM student pilots. Interviews are initiated, sit-ins arranged by the trainees, which require the national company to respect its obligations. They are ready to work without pay as long as it is with RAM. But nothing helped, the company remained frozen in its positions.
Let’s go back to Karim, the young 30-year-old cadet pilot, the victim of a stroke who will probably no longer be able to fly a plane. “Many rumors marked this story, I could not imagine what happened,” he told Arab News in French.
“When I found out that RAM offered us to sign with AMS, I began to lose hope and realize that my future would be turned upside down,” he continues. “I was in a situation of extreme stress, I could not stay physically or mentally until I had a brain haemorrhage. I am now considered to be disabled. The doctors are formal, it is the stress caused by this story that prevailed.
We will later learn that Karim had to be urgently re-admitted after another call from his bank asking him to pay off his outstanding debt.
On the RAM side, it’s radio silence. Arab News in French has contacted the communications director of the Moroccan company so that it can clarify its position. The latter referred us to a broadcast from the National News Agency, MAP, reproducing the response of the Moroccan Minister of Transport and Logistics, Mohammed Abdeljalil, to the House of Representatives.
The case actually finds an echo to Parliament. Asked on 25 April 2022 about this matter, the Minister confirmed that “Royal Air Maroc has proposed, from December 2021, a gradual recruitment of a number of pilot trainees within a subsidiary 100% owned by the national company”, and that “the recruitment offer in the subsidiary was in return for salaries similar to those offered by competing international companies, but relatively lower than their pre-pandemic level ”.
“We would not be here without the health crisis”
But the most interesting thing about his answer is that he argues that the RAM does not necessarily have to employ the interns at the end of the training. “RAM participated in the training of this group of pilots in Toulouse by giving them its guarantee of granting loans and at the same time giving them priority in employment if necessary. The pilot students, for their part, have signed signed documents the company will not be required to hire them after graduation, “he says. And to add,” we would not be here without the health crisis. The salaries offered are very correct, the company in question is not a subcontractor, it is a company 100% owned by RAM ”. Words in complete contradiction to what the cadet pilots claim.
In response to the Minister’s intervention, the coordination of the RAM pilot student to Arab News in French explains that the document to which the Minister refers “prescribes that the pilot student can be employed as a priority for three years and that this priority does not constitute a promise of But it is also written that if RAM decides not to hire the pilot student, it must guarantee him five hundred hours of flight so that he can integrate the labor market and repay this credit.
Furthermore, the coordination confirms that in a signed letter (see below), addressed to the Moroccan Association of Pilots (AMPL), dated 17 March 2017 and signed by the CEO of RAM, the latter confirms that “students selected and have followed the complete training courses within Enac will ensure employment within RAM ”.
It should be noted, however, that AMPL was dissolved on June 29, 2021 after a showdown with RAM. The latter had sued the association and demanded its dissolution and invalidity of all those with the agreements entered into. The judge retained the resolution, but not the invalidity, which could be confirmed by Arab News in French in the sentencing document provided by the coordination.
Asked again by Arab News in French about this letter, the Director of Communications for RAM did not want to answer our questions.