Last year could have ended vastly different for FedEx Express pilots. Frustrated by management’s approach to negotiations and a variety of unilateral company scheduling decisions designed to compensate for management’s self-induced staffing shortages, the pilots endured frustrations and challenges for the first half of the year. Uncertainty associated with the election of a new Master Executive Council (MEC) chairman and secretary-treasurer in July, as well as normal turnover on the MEC, created the potential for more negotiating delays and rocky labor relations over the second half of the year.
Instead, the new MEC leaders hit the ground running, negotiations moved forward with the assistance of the National Mediation Board, and the pilots stayed unified and dedicated to the task at hand. The result was an industry-leading contract and a renewed energy to tackle post-ratification issues. “We had numerous challenges as we moved through 2015,” said Capt. Chuck Dyer, the pilots’ MEC chairman.
The ratification process demonstrated the talents of the many FedEx volunteers, the resourceful staff, and most importantly, the involvement of the pilots. Soon after reaching the tentative agreement, the MEC began a very robust education process—using technology and face-to-face meetings to inform pilots of the particulars of the tentative agreement. The MEC provided webcasts, live phone-in sessions with the Negotiating Committee, road shows, videos from subject-matter experts detailing various sections of the agreement, and a continuously updated question-and-answer section on the MEC website.
By the end of October, the vote had concluded and the pilots had approved the contract. “Conducting tentative-agreement presentations around the world and maintaining a nonstop online question-and-answer bank required a continuous effort. Before we left Memphis, Tenn., to present the agreement to our various bases, we provided a tremendous amount of information to our pilots,” explained Dyer. “We employed a multitude of communication methods designed to more effectively reach our pilots and their families across the globe. We worked to provide the facts to our pilots so that they were fully informed when it came time to make their ratification decision. The pilots responded with a tremendous amount of interest and participation. We hope to build on this success by continuing to utilize these methods as a permanent part of our operation.”
As the FedEx pilots move into 2016, what was once an expectation—the implementation of the industry-leading contract—is finally a reality and in full swing. However, other issues have taken the place of bargaining updates and mediation sessions. “Properly implementing the agreement and seeing that it’s enforced are critical, but there are other challenges that still must remain a priority. Lithium batteries, environmental conditions in our workplace, security concerns both inflight and around our operations, and the development of a new strategic plan are just a few of our ongoing challenges. We’re steadily moving forward on these issues,” said Dyer.
The 4,156 FedEx Express pilots are spread across the globe, with eight councils located in four domiciles as well as pilots assigned to foreign duty in Hong Kong, China, and Cologne, Germany. Understanding the communications challenges that this global group faces, the MEC continues to engage its members through a variety of communication methods designed to better reach pilots, including its MEC website, interactive conference and video calls, video messages, e-mails, and text messaging.
With more than 375 airports served worldwide, the airline has an extensive and varied fleet. The pilots deliver approximately 3.9 million packages and 11 million pounds of freight daily to more than 220 countries and territories, including every address in the United States.