August 25, 2009
Hawaiian Airlines Pilots Open Strike Authorization Voting, Picket Honolulu Airport to Protest Slow Pace of Negotiations
HONOLULU – Hundreds of Hawaiian Airlines pilots conducted informational picketing outside Honolulu International Airport Tuesday as the pilots’ union began asking Hawaiian cockpit crewmembers to give their union leadership the authority to go on strike.
The pilots are protesting two-and-a-half years of stalled contract negotiations and six years of bankruptcy-imposed contract terms. The strike ballot, which opened Tuesday and continues until Sept. 10, would authorize the Hawaiian Master Executive Council (MEC) of the Air Line Pilots Association to declare a strike once the pilot group was given permission to do so by the National Mediation Board (NMB).
“Hawaiian management must understand that after years of giving back to our airline, we need firm guarantees that our company plans to give something back to us. We cannot accept the continued erosion of our contract in exchange for vague promises of future profit sharing ‘when things get better.’ For us, the time is now,” said Hawaiian MEC Chairman Capt. Eric Sampson.
While the two sides made progress in discussing retirement issues during a four-day mediation session at NMB headquarters in Washington, DC last week, the pilots and Hawaiian management still disagree on the size and structure of future pay increases. A major sticking point is management’s insistence that pilots pay for any raises over one percent a year by agreeing to “productivity enhancements” – contract concessions that would force them to fly longer hours and spend more time away from home.
“Management is trying to shield themselves from future economic uncertainty by penalizing the workers responsible for Hawaiian’s present success. They should have more faith in our airline’s potential and realize that their greatest challenge is rebuilding relationships with the pilots and other employees who have suffered the most during Hawaiian’s lean years -- long before our current management ever came to Hawaii,” Sampson said.
The next mediation session is scheduled for mid-October, although the parties may meet without the mediator present in September. If the next mediation session does not show substantial progress, ALPA could ask the NMB to release the union from mediation. If approved, the NMB release would trigger a 30-day cooling off period and could set the stage for the first-ever pilot strike at Hawaiian.
“We want a contract, not a strike, and we are still hopeful an agreement can be reached before Hawaiian’s 80th anniversary in November. We are also confident the strike voting results will prove that management should not test this group’s resolve,” Sampson said.
Founded in 1931, ALPA represents almost 54,000 pilots at 36 airlines in the U.S. and Canada, including the 405 pilots at Hawaiian Airlines. Visit the ALPA website at http://www.alpa.org.
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