May 18, 2006
Looming Strike Could Eliminate Air Service
Mesaba pilots, flight attendants and mechanics will be conducting informational picketing in Flint, Lansing, and Kalamazoo today to demonstrate their displeasure with management that continues to push for excessive and unnecessary pay cuts through the bankruptcy courts. A decision by the court on whether Mesaba Airlines has the right to impose new terms on the labor groups has been extended three times with the hope that a consensual agreement might be reached. A new deadline is set for May 18.
Management is demanding 19.4 percent in pay and benefit concessions for the next six years. The average salaries for flight attendants, pilots and mechanics currently stand at: $21,000, $45,000 and $32,000, respectively. The 19.4 percent pay cuts, in addition to a 66 percent increase in health care premiums, will make these employees the lowest paid in the industry. Many Mesaba employees will be eligible for federal aid. At the new proposed rates, a first-year pilot with family health insurance will gross less than $11,000 a year. A first-year flight attendant with employee only insurance will gross $11,000 a year under the proposed concessions. Unless management is able to reach a consensual agreement with its unions that includes a fair wage, the unions assert that Mesaba will not be able to stay in business.
Mesaba currently flies to 12 cities throughout Michigan. If the Mesaba union members were to strike, cities including Alpena, Sault Ste Marie, Pellston, Marquette and Houghton would lose all or most of their service.
“Mesaba Airlines provides a tremendous service to the flying public in Michigan,” says Captain Tom Wychor, Mesaba MEC chairman. “If airports like Sault Ste Marie or Houghton lose service, it will take several hours to drive to the next closest airport. While we do not wish to inconvenience passengers, the traveling public in Michigan need to understand that Mesaba management’s continued abuse of the bankruptcy process can only lead to liquidation of the airline – either through a labor strike or through a mass exodus of highly experienced employees.”
“To say that we are frustrated is an understatement,” says flight attendant Carla Rogat, Mesaba AFA vice president. “Mesaba and MAIR executives are grossly abusing the bankruptcy process in order to abrogate the unions’ contracts.”
"The only viable path out of bankruptcy for Mesaba Airlines is a consensual agreement with each of its unions," says Kevin Wildermuth, AMFA negotiations committee chairman. “But to date we haven’t seen much progress toward that end and our Northwest Airlink passengers should be prepared for a possible cessation of flights.”