March 19, 2001
Comair Pilots Reject Settlement Offer, Prepare to Strike
CINCINNATI--- The pilots of Comair, Inc., represented by the Air Line Pilots Association, have voted down Comair management's negotiations settlement offer, setting the stage for a strike at 12:01 AM on March 26 if the parties fail to achieve a tentative agreement prior to that date.
Of the 1,133 Comair pilots eligible to vote, 1096 (96.7 percent) did so. Of those who returned their ballots, pilots voted by an overwhelming 99.5 percent margin against the proposal, 1090 rejecting the offer and only 6 voting to accept.
On February 23, the National Mediation Board released Comair pilots and management into a 30-day cooling-off period that is scheduled to expire at midnight on Sunday, March 25. The NMB released the parties from federal mediation on the condition that ALPA submit Comair management's settlement offer to the pilot membership for a vote.
The Comair pilots Master Executive Council (MEC), the ALPA leadership body at Comair, was required by the NMB to submit the settlement offer to the pilot group with either a positive recommendation or a neutral stance. The MEC declined to endorse the settlement offer, and instead presented it to the members neutrally.
"With seven days left to a possible strike," said Captain J.C. Lawson, chairman of the Comair MEC, "I hope that our management is ready to get real in these negotiations. Our goal remains to achieve a negotiated settlement that rewards pilots fairly and at the same time preserves our future," Lawson said.
"However, our management should understand from the overwhelming rejection of their settlement offer that Comair pilots will continue to demand reasonable improvements in the areas that most affect our jobs, our careers, and our families," Lawson said. The primary unresolved issues include retirement, scheduling rules, job security, and compensation.
Funding for the Comair pilots' strike preparations come from an initial $2 million allocation made in September 1998 from ALPA's Major Contingency Fund, which currently has a balance of $70 million. Using these funds, Comair pilots have established strike centers in Cincinnati and Orlando and initiated a full range of strike preparation activities.
In addition, ALPA's Executive Council recently voted to recommend that the Association's Board of Directors provide expedited strike benefits to the Comair pilots in the event that they fail to achieve a negotiated settlement before strike deadline. The action would cut the normal 35-day waiting period for strike benefits to 14 days from the beginning of a Comair strike, if a contract is not achieved. The proposal would provide approximately $2 million per month in strike benefits.
Comair pilots have been in contract negotiations since June 1998 and in mediation since July 1999. After the 30-day cooling off period, pilots could strike. Contract talks could continue during the cooling off period, and neither side is required to take self-help action after the 30 days.
In July 2000, the Comair pilots approved a strike ballot, giving their pilot leadership the discretion to call a strike if the mandatory 30-day cooling-off period lapses without a contract agreement. Nearly 97 percent of the Comair pilots voted on the strike ballot issue and, of that group, more than 99 percent voted to authorize their pilot leadership to call a strike if necessary.
ALPA represents more than 59,000 airline pilots at 49 airlines in the U.S. and Canada. Its Web site is at http://cf.alpa.org.
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ALPA CONTACT: Capt. Paul Lackie (859) 282-0656