May 18, 2006
Mesaba Pilots Vindicated By Bankruptcy Court Ruling
MAIR Holding Letter stands protecting pilot jobs
MINNEAPOLIS -- Mesaba Airlines pilots, represented by the Air Line Pilots Association, International, are gratified by the bankruptcy court’s decision today denying Mesaba management’s 1113(c) motion to reject their contract. Pilots say that during the 15 days of lengthy testimony in this case, Mesaba failed to satisfy the legal elements required to obtain relief under the Bankruptcy Code.
“I’m sure that every Mesaba pilot is breathing a sigh of relief over today’s announcement,” said Captain Tom Wychor, chairman of the ALPA unit at Mesaba. “All along ALPA requested information that would allow us to assess the Company’s requests. The Court agreed that information wasn’t provided. Moreover, ALPA believed and still believes that the company doesn’t need the drastic pay and benefit cuts it requested.
Pilots say that they have been willing to address the airline’s crisis since October, 2005. “We have been in negotiations with management to address the root of the problem—that our company is facing a serious crisis if it does not rebuild and plan appropriately for the future,” said Wychor. “The bankruptcy judge’s decision does not change our willingness to participate in that restructuring in a way that still offers meaningful career opportunities at our airline.”
Perhaps the most important ruling in the 98-page decision was the judge’s firm and unequivocal decree prohibiting rejection of the MAIR/ALPA letter. That letter requires Mesaba’s holding company, MAIR, to staff its airline subsidiaries with Mesaba pilots under the terms of the Mesaba collective bargaining agreement. There is a small carve-out for Big Sky Airlines, also owned by MAIR, which allows Big Sky to operate aircraft with no more than 19 seats. In light of management’s previous threats to transfer all growth to Big Sky, the continuation of the MAIR letter is vital to Mesaba’s survival. The judge ruled that because MAIR was not a party to the bankruptcy, Mesaba could not reject the Letter. The ruling was made with prejudice, meaning that the company cannot re-file another motion with the court on this issue.
“We’re exceptionally pleased that the judge recognized the legal, binding letter of agreement on job protections that we achieved with MAIR Holdings during our contract negotiations in 2004,” said Wychor.
Pilots maintain that the only way Mesaba Airlines will survive and prosper is through consensual agreements between management and its labor groups. “Pilots will not work for the kind of substandard wages management was trying to impose, and we’ll continue to insist on the company fulfilling our need for information that will allow us to make reasonable decisions based on our airline’s real needs,” said Wychor.
Mesaba pilot wages are at industry average, and as such the airline has been able to retain quality professionals that have provided passengers with impeccable safety, on-time reliability and overall high quality service as a Northwest Airlink carrier. Pilots are willing to do their share to ensure that this record of excellence continues.
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 slashed wages and benefits to the lowest levels in the industry.
Mesaba Airlines operates as a Northwest Airlink partner under a service agreement with Northwest Airlines. Mesaba currently flies over 460 flights into Minneapolis, Detroit and Memphis to 112 cities throughout the United States and Canada.
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
ALPA CONTACT: Jonathan Marut (952) 853-9582 or Anya Piazza (703) 626-7926