July 21, 2006
Polar Air Cargo Management
Terminates ALPA Members
ALPA Prepares to File Grievance to Reinstate Flight Engineers
WASHINGTON, D.C. --- The Air Line Pilots Association, International announced that it will be vigorously defending the employment rights of 57 Polar Air Cargo professional flight engineers who were fired on June 30.
Captain Bobb Henderson, chairman of the Polar crewmembers unit of ALPA, said, “Polar’s management took this drastic and unprecedented action under the disciplinary procedures of the parties’ contract and claimed that the discharges were for ‘just cause’ on the grounds that the flight engineers were not qualified to be trained by the company to upgrade to pilot status in order to serve as first officers on the carrier’s remaining aircraft – five B-747-400s, certified by the Federal Aviation Administration to be flown by two pilots without flight engineers.”
Effective July 1, Polar ceased operating the last of its B-747-100/200/300 series aircraft, types that require flight engineers. Rather than continue to operate the four remaining aircraft in this series, after retiring three older aircraft, Polar removed these aircraft from its scheduled service operations, explaining that the continued operation of such a small fleet of this series would prove to be extraordinarily costly.
Captain Henderson gave this analysis of Polar’s position: “Management’s self-serving statement about extraordinary costs flies in the face of the fact, acknowledged earlier by Polar, that the flight operations costs for these aircraft are the same for both Polar and Atlas. This parity of operations costs resulted from the parties reaching agreement on the current Polar CBA after a short strike in late 2005. Although our management had several other viable options, nevertheless, it chose to sever the employment of an entire crewmember class, retaining only five flight engineers for first officer training on its B-747-400 aircraft. This decision by management was particularly harsh because the discharges allegedly for ’just cause’ taints these loyal employees with misconduct charges that may adversely affect their ability to gain comparable employment elsewhere while their cases wind their way through the disciplinary procedures of the parties’ CBA. The onus is now on these discharged employees to explain the circumstances of their treatment to potential employers and hope for a sympathetic ear.”
The Association views management’s action as totally unreasonable and in complete defiance of the parties’ collective bargaining agreement and the prevailing practices in the industry. Although the parties’ have differing interpretations of the correct application of the CBA’s provisions, something that both sides have acknowledged, management chose to ignore these provisions altogether, said Henderson.
The Polar MEC chairman specifically added: “Management turned a deaf ear to repeated requests by the Polar crewmembers’ Master Executive Council to regain from Atlas Air the aircraft and flying opportunities previously assigned to that carrier by Polar.” Atlas Air, which is a subsidiary of Polar’s parent company, Atlas Air World Wide Holdings, Inc.(AAWH), has been the beneficiary of Polar’s decision to reduce its fleet and continues to increase its operations by picking up more and more of Polar’s scheduled service. The Polar CBA requires management to ensure that the ’operations’ of each of these carriers ’shall remain separate,’ but management nevertheless continues to opt for Atlas as the carrier to fly Polar’s routes and schedules.
“Another example of management’s uncaring attitude and hard-line position concerning this issue was its unrelenting refusal to even discuss the possibility of offering this group of valuable employees any meaningful severance pay, training, or assistance in new employment,” added Captain Henderson.
“The majority of the Polar Air Cargo crewmembers have made significant contributions to the building of this company throughout the years. Many of these crewmembers who were terminated have been with Polar Air Cargo for 12 years. I believe their contributions far exceed those of the AAWH management, who seem to have no regard for the crewmembers and their families with this contract violation. Our management should be working on increasing this company’s economic impact with valuable employees rather than terminating them. Our anti-labor management had many viable options available other than terminating 12-year, highly-trained, dedicated employees. These actions are a significant violation of our contract, and we intend to pursue this grievance and other grievances associated with these actions to their rightful end,” added Capt. Henderson. Within the next few days, the Association will file formal appeals to the Polar Air Cargo Crewmembers System Board of Adjustment seeking to overturn these wrongful discharges and to have the entire group reinstated with full back pay, benefits, and seniority.
Polar Air Cargo is a U.S.-certificated all-cargo air carrier that also provides very important lift for the United States military throughout the world. It looks as if the military will need to find a new source of lift, as all of our classic B-747 aircraft used to provide this very important service are parked and sitting idle,” added Captain Henderson.
Polar Air Cargo was the winner of the prestigious Air Cargo Excellence Award in 2005, which is based on a survey of 20,000 members of the airline and freight-forwarding industries.
ALPA, the world’s largest pilots union, represents 62,000 cockpit crewmembers at 40 airlines in the U.S. and Canada. Its website is www.alpa.org.
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ALPA CONTACT: Ron Lovas (703)