February 8, 2005
Enough is Enough: Mesa Pilots Demand Contract Compliance
Pilots picket shareholders meeting to demonstrate their frustration
PHOENIX - Frustrated with the mounting tally of contract violations, Mesa pilots are conducting informational picketing at today's Mesa Air Group shareholders' meeting to let the airline's decision-makers know that "Enough is Enough!"
"A double standard currently exists between the expectations for the pilots and management," said Captain Andrew Hughes, chairman of the Mesa Air Group unit of the Air Line Pilots Association, International. "Our pilots are compelled to live up to the terms outlined within our contract, but for some reason, management seems to be held to a different standard."
Mesa pilots take pride in their airline's tremendous growth and know that they are key to its success. In March 2003, the pilots ratified a labor agreement with competitive wages and working conditions, which allowed for unprecedented growth in an airline environment of instability and furloughs.
Since that time, numerous contract violations by management foster an atmosphere of distrust and low pilot moral. Many of the contract disputes revolve around scheduling issues and pay disputes. Pilots entered into negotiations with management in November 2004 to resolve contract violations and agreed to discuss management's issues as well. Negotiations abruptly ended in January when management tied the resolution of more than 100 outstanding contract compliance issues to a two-year contract extension and unacceptable wages that were well below the industry standard to fly larger aircraft.
During and after these negotiations, management claimed that Mesa Air Group cannot afford to pay the pilots industry average wages. While the pilots are not picketing for increased wages or anything not afforded them in the contract, it's interesting that management continues to make this claim yet can afford the compensation packages for both the CEO and President, which each went up more than 450 percent in 2004 to the tune of nearly $5 million and nearly $4 million respectively. The only airline CEO, including legacy carriers, to make more than Mesa Air Group's CEO was David Siegel in his exit package with US Airways.
Late last week, management approached the pilots' Negotiating Committee to resume discussions. The pilots reached a tentative settlement with management last night addressing many of their contract-related issues. However, this settlement does not resolve more than 30 outstanding cases which will be sent to a neutral third-party for either a binding decision or mediation.
"This tentative agreement is the first step toward improving employee relations," Capt. Hughes concluded. "However, we are picketing today to demonstrate that we are not willing to accept anything less than total contract compliance. To achieve our goal and ensure that management adheres with our contract, we will use every available avenue afforded us under federal law."
The Air Line Pilots Association is the bargaining agent for the nearly 1,700 pilots at Mesa Air Group, which includes Mesa, Air Midwest and Freedom Airlines. Founded in 1931, ALPA is the world's largest pilot union, representing approximately 64,000 pilots at 43 airlines in the United States and Canada. Visit the ALPA website at www.alpa.org.
Mesa Air Group is one of the only profitable airlines today and recently reported record quarterly earnings of nearly $14 million. With nearly 1,100 departures per day to cities throughout the U.S., Canada and Mexico, Mesa Air Group operates independently and under United Express, US Airways Express, America West Express and Midwest Express.
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Lydia Jakub, 602-306-1208