Collective Bargaining Committee Examines New Ways to Support MEC Bargaining

By ALPA Staff
F/O Paul Ryder (United), ALPA’s national resource coordinator, discusses the challenges fee-for-departure carriers are facing.

Members of ALPA’s Collective Bargaining Committee (CBC) convened at the Association’s McLean, Va., offices on October 1–3 to assess the status of contract negotiations and review trends in airline industry collective bargaining. The group, which includes several new members, also discussed plans for negotiations training and resource materials for ALPA pilot negotiators.

Capt. Jeff Harbison (JetBlue), the newly appointed CBC chair, led the meeting. The CBC, which consists of veteran negotiators from seven different ALPA pilot groups, received briefings on a full range of related topics, including current airline industry and economic trends. Kye Johanning, assistant director of ALPA’s Economic & Financial Analysis Department, observed, “2019 was the 10th year in a row of profitability for the global airline industry.” He also highlighted developments such as restoring pay rates to prebankruptcy-era levels and narrowing the gap between aircraft pay rates among airlines.

F/O Paul Ryder (United), ALPA’s national resource coordinator, brought to light the challenges fee-for-departure (FFD) carriers are facing in maintaining adequate pilot staffing levels, given flow-through agreements and other incentives for pilots to upgrade to larger carriers. “Major airlines hired approximately 4,600 pilots in 2018, which was the third-highest total since 2000,” he said, adding that the FFD carriers’ ability to secure flying from their mainline counterparts is particularly critical now that many aircraft fleets are capped. Ryder noted that a number of ALPA’s FFD pilot groups—including Air Wisconsin, CommutAir, Compass, Endeavor Air, Envoy Air, ExpressJet, Jazz Aviation, Mesa, Piedmont, PSA, and Trans States—are currently in some phase of contract negotiations.

A central focus for the committee is to address bargaining challenges for pilot groups that are losing their union leaders at a rapid rate. ALPA is seeing high levels of pilot turnover at many of the Association’s smaller- and medium-sized pilot groups as pilots seek other flying opportunities. Pilot leaders with ALPA training and experience are departing in significant numbers, and the resulting loss of knowledge and experience is of particular concern to the CBC. In response, the committee is giving special attention to how it can best support ALPA pilot groups that are experiencing high rates of departures.

Capt. Joseph Genovese, ALPA’s vice president–finance/treasurer, encouraged the CBC’s work, reviewing ALPA’s budget process and committing to support greater outreach from the committee in support of individual master executive councils.

Betty Ginsburg, director of ALPA’s Representation Department, provided an update on the role, current makeup, and influence of the National Mediation Board, and the CBC reviewed progress on its work recommending updates to Section 40 of ALPA’s Administrative Manual, which addresses collective bargaining, and settled on a work plan to bring it more in line with modern-day contract negotiations.

Harbison and Ginsburg led a group discussion on the committee’s essential role in providing negotiations training programs and educational materials. The CBC reviewed last year’s annual Negotiations Training Seminar (NTS) and discussed minor changes that could be considered for this year’s NTS.

Mindful of the committee’s commitment to broaden access to training programs, Harbison noted that “the NTS is not enough.” The CBC is available and willing to conduct additional, individualized training when pilot negotiating teams need help. CBC members are developing plans to offer an outreach program for new negotiating committees entering contract negotiations that will examine basic bargaining skills such as managing a negotiating committee, preparing for and pacing negotiations, maintaining discipline at the bargaining table, and anticipating what to expect from management.

A highlight of the meeting was a joint session with the national Retirement & Insurance Committee, which was also in session. The two committees discussed ways to further their mutual interest in providing support to pilot groups that currently lack volunteers with bargaining or benefits expertise and pledged to continue to discuss possible joint efforts.

The CBC is also contemplating possible bargaining roundtables for next year.

This article was originally published in the November 2019 issue of Air Line Pilot.

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