Air Transport, International

Air Transport, Internationaln Pilots
Capts. Bo Stanley, right, and Nancy Turgeon at Seattle–Tacoma International Airport.

The announced five- to seven-year deal with Air Transport Service Group, Inc.—the parent company of Air Transport International—to operate an air cargo network to serve Amazon Fulfillment Services, Inc. provided just the kick start needed for the Air Transport International pilots’ Section 6 negotiations.

“Our contract became amendable in May 2014,” said Capt. Tom Rogers, the pilots’ Master Executive Council (MEC) chairman, “and while our Contract Negotiating Committee and management made significant progress on a few administrative sections in 2014, negotiations on the more challenging operational and economic topics stalled in 2015. This deal with Amazon gave management the incentive to reopen and fast-track negotiations after our mutually agreed-upon pause.”

The negotiations “restart” kicked off with a pilot poll to ascertain where the Contract Negotiating Committee should allocate its negotiating capital, as well as a six-part educational campaign to reacquaint the pilots with the vast resources that ALPA provides and with the Railway Labor Act’s Section 6 negotiations process. “We felt it was necessary to get the pilots back in the negotiations game frame of mind,” Rogers indicated.

Once the survey was complete and the pilots were fully educated on the negotiations process, the Contract Negotiating Committee shifted into high gear, developing a game plan with management to fast-track the negotiations into four phases:

Phase I—administrative sections of the agreement, such as uniforms, management rights, Association business, ALPA-PAC checkoff, agency shop and dues checkoff, workers’ compensation, etc.

Phase II—sections that are more substantive and contentious, e.g., investigation and discipline, nondisciplinary grievances, system board of adjustment, and mediation, etc.

Phase III—sections that are more complicated and highly contentious, such as scheduling and economic issues.

Phase IV—“cleanup” that ties up any loose ends such as definitions.

“It’s important that we have a game plan and stay focused,” Rogers added, “so that our forward momentum keeps carrying us to a successful conclusion.”

Negotiations resumed in early August, and seven additional sessions were conducted through the end of the year. After each negotiating session, the Contract Negotiating Committee provided the pilots with a summary of the negotiations that included an updated Phase Order Status document and a Contract Sections Order of Business.

The committee met with ALPA staff from the Retirement & Insurance, Economic & Financial Analysis, Representation, and Legal Departments in November to discuss scope, retirement and insurance, and other issues and to establish a baseline for the economic sections of the contract. “The continued support we receive from ALPA provides us with the information needed to focus our negotiations based on industry averages,” Rogers said.

The MEC has also been focused on correcting an editing oversight regarding first-year pay rates that was found in the pilots’ current contract. “When conflicting or omitted information is discovered in a contract, that conflict or omission has to be rectified,” Rogers said. To resolve this situation, the MEC obtained the second-year pay rate as the new first-year pay rate, and proposed a new second-year pay rate that was an even split between the contract’s second- and third-year rates. This solution had the added benefit of helping to attract new-hire pilots.

In addition to kick-starting negotiations, the deal with Amazon necessitated the recall of all furloughed crewmembers and a flurry of activity to increase staffing. According to Rogers, the MEC negotiated preferential hiring for ALPA members, and up to (if not more than) 50 percent of new hires could be ALPA members. (The application on the airline’s website includes a space for applicants to add their ALPA number.)

“We’re definitely moving in the right direction,” Rogers concluded, “and it appears we’ll continue moving forward in 2017.”