February 22, 2010
Spirit Pilot Contract Negotiations End: Strike Looms
Pilots picket airport and company headquarters demanding a new contract
Fort Lauderdale, Fla.—Spirit pilots, represented by the Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l (ALPA), concluded mediated talks with the company on February 18 without any progress toward a new contract. The pilots have been negotiating for three-and-a-half years and in federally mediated talks for over six months. The end of scheduled talks may result in the pilots calling a lawful strike should the group be released to seek self-help from the National Mediation Board.
Spirit Airlines has been profitable for four consecutive quarters, enjoys the lowest cost per block in the industry, and claims that it is growing. However, the company continues to put forward a five-year contract with $31 million in concessions, including work rule changes that would allow the company to furlough more than 54 pilots.
“Even in harsh dictatorships, they give you a blindfold and a cigarette before the hanging,” said Sean Creed, Spirit MEC chair. “In this operation, they want you to put the noose around your own neck and pull the trap door open yourself—which is exactly what we would be doing if we were to agree to these demands.”
Spirit management has also requested changes to the contract that directly jeopardize the quality of life, health, and safety of its pilots. For example, the company proposes that longevity be based on hours flown per year rather than years of service. Pilots who try to meet their family obligations and live reasonable lives would stand to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars over the course of a career. Additionally, pilots may feel pressured to fly even when sick or fatigued in order to build hours and increase their income.
“The picture is painfully clear,” said ALPA president Capt. John Prater. “After everything our Association has done to try to recover from a lost decade in this industry, Spirit management is trying to restart the race to the bottom. I am proud of our Spirit pilot leadership and membership for standing up to absurd and grossly unfair demands and for insisting that they receive compensation appropriate to pilots flying Airbus aircraft at a major carrier.”
Spirit pilots marked the end of mediated talks by holding two picketing events over the past few days. On Friday, February 19, more than 60 pilots demonstrated at the Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood airport—the main hub of Spirit Airlines. The pilots gathered in force again on Monday, February 22, right outside company headquarters in Miramar, Fla., to bring the message directly to Spirit executives: “Spirit pilots are ready to call a lawful strike.”
Founded in 1931, ALPA is the world’s largest pilot union and represents 53,250 pilots at 37 airlines in the United States and Canada, including more than 500 pilots at Spirit Airlines. Visit the ALPA website at http://www.alpa.org.
Captain Sean Creed—(765) 481-9033
Arthur Luby—(571) 236-3523
Jen Lofquist—(703) 481-4459