Release #05.ALA4
July 11, 2005

Alaska Airlines Pilots Overwhelmingly Reject Proposed Agreement

Nearly 90% of pilots turn down an agreement to lessen pay cuts, grant other concessions

SEATTLE -- The pilots of Alaska Airlines overwhelmingly rejected the tentative agreement that would have replaced the current two-year contract with a five-year agreement that would have lessened the impact of arbitrated pay cuts but substituted concessions in areas such as health care, retirement and work rules. Slightly more than 95% of pilots voted, with 88.9% voting against ratifying the agreement.

On May 1, an arbitrator’s ruling took effect that reduced pilot pay by 21-34%, with the lowest-paid, most junior pilots taking the largest cut. Although the rejected agreement called for less severe pay cuts--a 20%, across-the-board reduction from April 30 wages--it would have meant five years with only one pay increase of 2% in 2008.

The rejected agreement also would have eliminated the pilots’ current health care plan, instead adopting management’s plan. It called for increased premiums, altered retirement options and implemented work rule concessions. The arbitrated ruling did not modify retirement and contained few work rule concessions. 

“Our pilots were faced with two choices, neither of them good,” said Capt. Mark Bryant, chairman of the Alaska pilots’ union. “By overwhelmingly rejecting this TA, our pilots have unequivocally said their future benefits are worth more than a little extra money in their pockets right now.”

Because the tentative agreement failed ratification, the arbitrated contract that handed down the drastic pay cuts remains in effect. It is amendable in May 2007. A lawsuit filed by the Air Line Pilots Association on May 13 in Federal District Court that asks that the arbitration award be vacated will proceed.

“The pilots of Alaska Airlines want to be partners in the success of our airline,” Bryant said. “Through the arbitration award, this pilot group has invested $90 million per year into Alaska Airlines. We hope our management will use that money wisely and turn Alaska Airlines into the profitable, thriving carrier that we know it can be.”

“We expect in two years when we negotiate a new contract that our management will remember the investment we’ve made through the arbitrator’s award and will, in turn, invest in this pilot group,” Bryant said.

Under a side letter of agreement in the Alaska Airlines pilots’ former labor contract, if the airline and its pilots union could not reach an agreement on a new contract, the issues of contention were decided by an arbitrator. The side letter expired with the latest arbitration, which means that future contract negotiations are governed by the Railway Labor Act, which is the case at most other airlines.

Founded in 1931, the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) represents 64,000 pilots at 41 airlines in the United States and Canada, including the 1,500 pilots who fly for Alaska Airlines.

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ALPA Contact: Jenn Farrell, (206) 241-3138