February 3, 2006
Mesaba Labor Groups React to 1113(c) Filing to Reject Contracts
Management Term Sheet Demands Unrealistic and Unwarranted Cuts
MINNEAPOLIS – Mesaba Airlines filed a motion in bankruptcy court today that requests authority to reject the collective bargaining agreements with the Air Line Pilots Association, International (ALPA), the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA), and the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association (AMFA). The unions have made every effort possible to respond to management’s request for cost savings, but are at odds over the depth of management’s proposed cuts, especially in light of the enormous sums of money that Mesaba has transferred to its parent, MAIR Holdings.
“It is outrageous for Mesaba management to go to these extremes to gut our pay, work rules and benefits, especially in light of the fact that Mesaba has been profitable for many years,” stated Kevin Wildermuth, Negotiating Committee chairman of the Mesaba AMFA unit. “Our technicians have worked hard on behalf of our company, and our profitability led us to believe that our futures were secure.”
“ALPA has yet to see proof that these concessions are warranted – and certainly not concessions that would force professional, skilled pilots’ income levels to drop below federal poverty guidelines,” claimed Captain Tom Wychor, chairman of the Mesaba ALPA unit. “It is clear that Mesaba is simply trying to manipulate the bankruptcy process to attack labor, and it is wrong.”
Mesaba management has proposed to slash wages while also imposing a 60% increase in health insurance premiums. Management is also seeking the right to outsource many jobs currently protected by job security provisions. Pilot pay currently starts at $21,000 per year. Flight attendants earn just $14,000 in starting pay, and mechanics start at $27,000. The cuts proposed by Mesaba are drastic – in 2012 a starting pilot who elects family health insurance will gross just $10,700 annually.
“We will not be able to work under management’s term sheet – you just can’t make a living at those wages,” said Wychor. “Mesaba will shut down if these proposals are pushed through, either by virtue of a work stoppage, or by virtue of everyone quitting. These are not viable solutions for the airline, and we believe management would be foolish to test them.”
The unions point to Mesaba’s parent, MAIR Holdings, as a critical factor in the bankruptcy. Almost all of MAIR’s revenue is produced by Mesaba, and MAIR held $120 million in cash and equivalents at the time Mesaba filed for bankruptcy. Big Sky Airlines, another MAIR subsidiary, has accrued over $13 million in losses since the carrier was purchased in December of 2002. Big Sky has not filed for bankruptcy protection.
“As the result of a corporate shell game, we find out that our hard earned profits have been transferred to the holding company, and Mesaba now claims it can’t pay its obligations – including its employees,” said Flight Attendant Carla Rogat, vice president of the AFA unit at Mesaba.
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 100 regional jet and jet-prop aircraft consisting of the 69-passenger Avro RJ85, the 50-passenger CRJ-200, and the 30- 34-passenger Saab SF340.
This year marks the 75th anniversary of the flight attendant profession and the 60th anniversary of the Association of Flight Attendants. More than 46,000 flight attendants join together to form AFA-CWA, the world’s largest flight attendant union. AFA-CWA is part of the 700,000-member strong Communications Workers of America, AFL-CIO. Visit the AFA website at www.afanet.org for more information.
Maintenance technicians at Mesaba are represented by AMFA, a craft oriented, independent aviation union created in 1962 with over 16,000 members at eight airlines. AMFA's creed is, "Safety In The Air Begins With Quality Maintenance On The Ground." Visit the AMFA website at www.amfanatl.org.
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.
# # #
SOURCE: Mesaba Airlines Labor Coalition
ALPA CONTACT: Scott Patz, 612-396-7795
AMFA CONTACT: Kevin Wildermuth, 404-808-8120
AFA CONTACT: Carla Rogat, 612-801-4141