September 14, 2007
Delta Connection Pilots Host Job Seminar
Pilots electing to leave empowered to seek jobs elsewhere
Atlanta – The Atlantic Southeast Airlines pilots’ union – a local arm of the Air Line Pilots Association, International (ALPA) – is hosting job seminars for its members in September. The purpose of the seminars – which will be conducted on September 15 and again on September 25 – is to help ASA pilots prepare their resumes, sharpen their interview skills and learn where the best prospects for better employment lie, if they choose to go elsewhere.
“We’re going to take care of our own, even if it means helping them get out of here,” said Captain David Nieuwenhuis, Chairman of the ASA pilot group’s Master Executive Council (MEC). Nieuwenhuis said if pilots feel it is in their best interest to leave, their union should support that decision. “Our union was formed more than 75 years ago because air carrier managers then were only interested in the almighty dollar,” Nieuwenhuis said.
“The founders of our Association saw the need to take care of pilots and they realized their companies weren’t going to do that,” Captain Nieuwenhuis added. “We’ve made tremendous progress in aviation since then, but airlines today still care more about their bottom line than about their pilots.”
The pilots at ASA have been in contract negotiations with their management for five years. For the past three years, those negotiations have been conducted under supervision of the National Mediation Board (NMB). “We’ve seen this [negotiations] process deteriorate to the point that we are at the end of our rope,” Nieuwenhuis said. “We have absolutely no confidence that SkyWest management will negotiate a fair and equitable contract with its ASA pilots in a reasonable amount of time.”
SkyWest, Inc. (SKYW) owns and operates both Atlantic Southeast Airlines and Sky West Airlines as wholly owned subsidiaries. SkyWest, Inc. enjoys code share partnerships with Delta Airlines (DAL) and United Airlines (UAUA), and has recently entered into a similar code share partnership with Midwest Airlines (MEH).
Airline contracts are governed by the Railway Labor Act (RLA). Under those provisions, old contracts do not expire, they become amendable. The job of the National Mediation Board is to oversee negotiations under the Railway Labor Act. One of the NMB’s statutory goals is the “…prompt and orderly resolution of disputes arising out of the negotiation of new or revised collective bargaining agreements.” Additionally, the NMB has the sole discretion whether or not to place a deadline on contract negotiations by issuing proffers of arbitration and subsequent releases, allowing managements and/or employee groups to enter into self-help.
Twice since September, 2006, the ASA pilots have requested a “proffer of arbitration” from the NMB that would place a much needed deadline on these protracted negotiations. So far no deadline has been issued. SkyWest and ASA management continue to exploit the RLA process and drag out negotiations. “The ASA pilots want a contract,” Captain Nieuwenhuis explained. “After negotiating five years, three of them under the supervision of the NMB, our pilots are losing faith in the Railway Labor Act and have certainly lost any faith they may have had in management’s willingness to get a deal done.”
Most of all, pilots at ASA are losing confidence in the entire negotiations process, a process that was originally instated to keep the transportation system moving by keeping existing working agreements from running out. Unfortunately, as Captain Nieuwenhuis and other pilots will point out, that process has been politically exploited to drag out the negotiations process at ASA for more than five years and cheat the already low-paid pilots (starting pilots at the company earn around $18,500 their first year) and their families from much-needed and well-deserved wage increases and improvements in work rules.
With no end in sight and frustrations mounting, many pilots have opted to leave the carrier.
For additional information on the ASA Pilot negotiations, including the history, progress and the negotiations process under the Railway Labor Act, visit the ALPA ASA Pilot Negotiating Facts website at http://asanegotiations.alpa.org.
Founded in 1931, ALPA is the world’s largest pilot union, representing 60,000 pilots at 41 airlines in the United States and Canada. Visit the ALPA website at www.alpa.org.
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