December 18, 2007
ALPA Files Suit against Champion Air for Violating Labor Laws
MINNEAPOLIS –The Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l (ALPA), which represents the pilots of Champion Air, filed suit in U.S. District Court Friday against Champion Air management asserting that Champion Air has violated the federal statute that governs contract negotiations in the airline industry.
“Champion Air management is circumventing the law and this union in its attempt to address a pilot shortage caused by the company’s low pay and inferior working conditions,” said Capt. John Prater, president of ALPA. “The company should be focused on working cooperatively with ALPA at the bargaining table to improve pay and working conditions for all Champion pilots. The bottom line is that ALPA will not allow any management team to undermine our union’s legal right to negotiate fair wages and work rules for pilots.”
Champion Air recently announced that it would unilaterally implement two new financial incentive programs designed to reduce pilot attrition and maintain Champion's current level of charter flying, issues that the parties have addressed in negotiations. By offering these incentives, Champion Air changed the “status quo” pay and working conditions of the pilots without first bargaining and reaching agreement with ALPA.
“We are asking the Court to bar the company from implementing the retention and premium pay programs because they unilaterally change our contract without exhausting the federally mandated negotiations process,” said Capt. Matt Marsh, chairman of the Champion Air unit of ALPA. “These rules are meant to prevent the company from ignoring the union and implementing whatever terms and conditions of employment they choose when they choose.”
“Union leaders offered to negotiate acceptable terms for both programs,” Marsh continued, “but in both instances the company refused to negotiate provisions that would make them more than just company table scraps. Because the company is unwilling to negotiate the permanent improvements in our contract that will keep pilots on the property, they are now stooping to offering bribes.”
Champion pilots and management have been in negotiations for a new contract since January 2005. A federal mediator, appointed by the National Mediation Board, joined the process in September 2005.
In October 2007, Champion Air management requested the NMB recess the negotiations. In response, the NMB indicated that a recess was not appropriate at this time and instructed ALPA to be ready to return the bargaining table in early 2008.
The union made it quite clear to Champion Air management that it stands ready to help the carrier with its serious pilot recruitment and retention problems. Those problems are a direct result of Champion Air’s substandard pay and working conditions. Only through lawful negotiations can retention bonus and premium pay programs be a part of the new contract. The union requested to negotiate the terms of these programs, but management refused to negotiate.
Champion Air flies Boeing 727s and provides charter service for national travel agencies, the National Basketball Association, and the Department of Defense.
Founded in 1931, ALPA is the world’s largest pilot union representing more than 60,000 cockpit crewmembers at 42 airlines in the U.S. and Canada. Visit the ALPA website at www.alpa.org.
Matt Marsh, 952-853-9591
Kimberly Seitz, 703-481-4440