SKYGUIDE SHOULD HAVE STARTED WAY EARLIER
Le contrôleur, dont la peine a été confirmée début juillet, opère depuis l’ACC de Zurich. Il est membre du syndicat Aerocontrol.Son président, Ivo Maiolo, à sa tête depuis mars 2019 partage, en anglais, ses opinions sur cette affaire et ses conséquences.
How is the condemned ATCO doing?
He’s fine so far. He is glad that it is finally over, because such a long procedure is also mentally very demanding.
Is he back to work? What kind of job is he doing now?
He’s been working as an air traffic controller all the time.
What kind of support has Skyguide’s management specifically given to him?
He got full operational and legal support. He was assisted by a lawyer and the costs were covered by CAP. Furthermore, he was given days at any time to clear his head and/or to prepare for a forthcoming interrogation/trial.
Do you think it was enough?
Hard to say, as he is the only one who could answer that question. But yes, I think it was enough.
And what support from Aerocontrol has he received?
We took care of everything we could. In addition to supporting him whenever he got in touch with the STSB, we were also available to the management at all times so that he could concentrate on himself and the lawyer. The entire organization of the court hearing (travel, accommodation, search for internal experts) was also handled by us. Aerocontrol also covered the costs for this part. The aim was and still is that the persons concerned have to do as little as possible, feel supported wherever there’s a need for it and can concentrate on the proceedings and the defence.
How did your colleagues react to this sentence?
It shocked a lot of people because nobody expected it. No one believed that one could be condemned for a mistake that did not result in any damage or harm. This created a completely new reality, which we have to deal with now.
What is the atmosphere in the control-room today?
In the beginning it was a big topic. Meanwhile people have made the best of it and don’t discuss it so often anymore. Another uncertainty lies in the upcoming judgement that’s to be expected this autumn. That masks the whole situation and diminishes the impact of last judgement quite a bit.
Do you think the “just culture” is in danger in Switzerland?
To be honest, I think everything’s still exactly the same as before. Just Culture is anchored in the company as well as in the FOCA. In Swiss criminal law, Just Culture did not exist before the judgement and still does not exist today. The Just Culture campaign aims to change this.
Therefore there is no difference between Just Culture before the judgement and now.
How could our two unions work together to defend it?
Personally, I think that we can only achieve the great goal of anchoring Just Culture in law by working together. Together means hand in hand with all the industry partners. Our two associations would never be able to do that on their own. And even working in close cooperation with our partners does not make the way much easier.
Should all unions concerned with just culture (doctors, emergency workers, police officers, etc.) collaborate?
At the end, sure. All professions in Switzerland that are active in the high-risk sector should benefit from Just Culture. That’s the only way safety be improved. Only if you can learn from unwanted outcomes it is possible to prevent them in the future. If you have to fear that you will be punished for a mistake you will not report and the organization will not be able to learn from it.
Almost every “big event” starts with several, detected or undetected lapses, mistakes and errors. If these latter ones are not reported, the “big event” is inevitable once in a while.
That’s why everyone benefits from Just Culture. Not only high-risk industry operators but also society. That must be the ultimate goal.
However, we are aware of the fact it will be difficult to make it reasonable to society that everyone benefits and that there’s no correlation – actually it is rather contradiction – between finding a scape-goat and increasing safety.
What role should skyguide play in this defence?
Skyguide will have to act as a partner in the Just Culture campaign, as it plans to do. Skyguide currently provides 250 job percentages for the JJCC, which is a lot and demonstrates the importance of the campaign for skyguide.
Do you think skyguide has done enough so far?
Good question. To be honest, no. What has been done in the last 6 months is good and probably correct. But skyguide should have started way earlier – and it was reminded to do so many times…
However, in hindsight it’s always easy to see the mistakes. It is just a little irritating, that some people – internally and externally – were less optimistic than skyguide, saw the possible threats and danger but were not listened to or heard.
Given the actual situation as it is, it’s important that the problems get corrected now. That’s why it’s important that everyone pulls the same rope so that we can reach the big goal.
Do you think that condemnation can make air traffic controller work less attractive in Switzerland and prevent ATCOs from coming to work in Switzerland?
Yeah, sure. The fact that one can be punished (condemned) for a mistake – without any negative outcome – certainly brings a component to our profession that is not really attractive. Nevertheless, there are still many aspects that make the profession of air traffic controller attractive.
As it is with life in general, there are positive and negative aspects. But the attractivity of our profession has suffered from a negative impact, for sure.
Will this have an impact on student controllers?
Maybe in the short term, but not in the long term, unless we’ll have to face a row of convictions now. I started my training 3.5 months after Überlingen. What was a huge shock for all my colleagues was much smaller for us students. We weren’t directly affected and couldn’t imagine what the accident meant to the company, the controllers and/or the industry.
The situation will probably be similar for today’s students. For them it is an aspect that is theoretically there, but really very far away and therefore not omnipresent.
What is your opinion on the so called “bridging measures”?
My personal opinion about the Bridge Measures is that they unnecessarily – once again it was highlighted to management in due time – had to be created in a hurry and therefore the individual measures were not formulated in sufficient detail. It was also missed to define exactly what was meant by the individual measures. The management sometimes understood something completely different than the associations.
As management wanted to communicate very quickly, this problem could not be solved and now the bridge measures have a negative connotation. This is a great pity, because some of them are reasonable, make sense and could take some pressure and complexity out of the system.
That is what it is about. Over the last few years, complexity has increased more and more. The framework, especially at Zurich Airport, has become increasingly tight and difficult. Nevertheless, my colleagues at TWR/APP Zurich do their best every day to make as much as possible while keeping the operations safe and efficient. Sometimes they go or rather have to go far into grey areas that should actually be avoided. But if they wouldn’t do that, they wouldn’t be able to keep up the customer-specified and accepted business.
The judgement has shown now that it can no longer go on like this. There must be changes. Whether these are called bridge measures or otherwise does not really matter. It is important that the calls from the front are finally heard and that changes and simplifications take place. Now and not sometime in the future. It’s urgent. It’s reasonable. And it’s judicially confirmed.
What is your assessment of the “Candidas motion” in the National Council (Nationalrat) and the request to adapt article 98? Do you think the law will be able to adapt to the specificities of “just culture”?
Well, these are two separate questions. The Candinas motion demands that the federal government should assume responsibility for criminal jurisdiction in the event of air accidents and serious incidents and the cantonal public prosecutor’s offices. This should create a competence center in the Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland and thus ensure that, on the one hand, there is no danger because an individual public prosecutor wants to make a name for himself and, on the other hand, that only cases that have a certain justification are really investigated by the Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland.
As mentioned above, there are possible advantages and disadvantages. The advantage might be that there’s only one office dealing with aviation, leading to a minimum level of competence in this very area.
On the other hand, if this central office decides to take rigorous action against all cases, we will have a problem throughout Switzerland. Today we have a problem with the Zurich public prosecutor’s office. In the other parts of Switzerland the same problem does not exist.
The motion has been adopted in both Councils and now the Federal Council is obliged to present a draft law.
Your second question is about changing Swiss law with respect to JC. The parliamentary initiative by Gregor Rutz (SVP/UDC) is trying to do so and I strongly suggest to support this initiative. It might not be the “end of our wishes”, but it would change Swiss law remarkably in the sense of a proper JC.
There are still two cases pending. How do you think they will be judged?
One case is already pending at federal court and we expect a verdict in the next few weeks. Of course we hope that there will be an acquittal this time, but we are also preparing for a guilty verdict.
The other case led to a conviction in the first instance and the case was referred to the Zurich Higher Court.
The dismissal of the complaint in case RYR3595 vs. TAP796 certainly has a signal effect on the other two cases. Should there be another final conviction by the Federal Court, an individual case would be confirmed and this would also affect future cases. This would probably make the defense in the third case – and future cases – considerably more difficult.
Do you think the proceedings against the ATCOs will continue?
I hope it doesn’t go on like this now!
Unfortunately, we have to face the high probability that it will go on like that if all the three cases lead to a conviction. However, if the third case in particular continues to drag on, some of the potential cases will become statute-barred, unless the State Attorneys try to avoid that by initiating judicial proceedings before a valid verdict.
We will have to wait and see. But I hope and wish all of us more peace, quietness and Just Culture. For the sake of our colleagues, safety and society.