February 24, 2006
Northwest Airlink Flights In Jeopardy
Mesaba Airline Pilots Authorize Strike if Management Imposes Severe Wage Cuts
MINNEAPOLIS -- As a bankruptcy court hearing begins today to determine whether or not Mesaba Airlines can throw out the pilots’ existing contract, the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) announced that Mesaba Airline pilots have overwhelmingly authorized a strike if management is allowed to impose terms that would have airline pilots flying at poverty-level wages.
The pilots voted to authorize their union leaders to call for a removal of service by a 98 percent margin. ALPA leaders say that a strike would be contingent on both the outcome of the bankruptcy court hearings scheduled to conclude 30 days from today as well as management’s subsequent actions. If Mesaba management follows through on their threats to impose changes to the pilots’ contract making Mesaba’s pilot wages, benefits, and working conditions the worst in the industry, ALPA leaders have their members’ unqualified approval to call a strike.
"The only viable path out of bankruptcy for Mesaba Airlines includes consensual agreements with its labor groups," said Captain Tom Wychor, chairman of the Mesaba unit of ALPA. "Management’s continued abuse of the bankruptcy process can only lead to liquidation of the airline--either through a pilot strike or through a mass exodus of highly experienced employees."
The pilots agreed to a new contract in January of 2004 that put Mesaba pilots in line with the industry average for wages and work rules. Starting salaries for Mesaba pilots, who operate both jet and turboprop aircraft, is just $21,000 per year. An average Mesaba pilot makes approximately $45,000. Management’s term sheet slashes wages and benefits to the lowest levels in the industry. A new hire pilot would gross just $13,100 after paying 50 percent premiums for family health care. More senior pilots would see their pay reduced by up to 66 percent.
“Not only will pilots not work for these kinds of wages, but I’m certain that the traveling public would not want to fly in the back of a plane if they knew that the pilots were being paid poverty wages necessitating second and third jobs just to make ends meet,” said Wychor. “Pilots are highly skilled professionals with a great deal of responsibility, and it behooves our airline to attract the finest employees possible to provide the safest and best experience for their passengers.”
ALPA acknowledges that the airline needs concessions in light of the proposed 49-Saab fleet, and it has offered at least $8.5 million in concessions. Management, however, has been unwilling thus far to back off of their demands for $34 million over the next six years.
Mesaba Airlines operates as a Northwest Airlink partner under a service agreement with Northwest Airlines. Currently, Mesaba Aviation serves 111 cities in 30 states and Canada from Northwest’s and Mesaba’s three major hubs: Detroit, Minneapolis/St. Paul, and Memphis. Mesaba employees operate and service an advanced fleet of 77 regional jet and jet-prop aircraft consisting of the 69-passenger Avro RJ85, the 50-passenger Bombardier CRJ-200, and the 30- 34-passenger Saab SF340.
Founded in 1931, ALPA celebrates its 75th anniversary this year representing 62,000 pilots, including 850 Mesaba pilots, at 39 airlines in the U.S. and Canada. Visit the ALPA website at www.alpa.org for more information.
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SOURCE: Air Line Pilots Association, Int'l
ALPA CONTACT: Linda Shotwell, (703) 481-4440