Friday, March 02, 2007

US Airways pilots sue for unified contract

Tired of waiting and waiting, and then waiting some more, pilots at US Airways have filed suit to stop the company from integrating the operations of its predecessor companies -- the 'old' US Airways, and America West Airlines -- until a single, fair, unified contract is negotiated for its two pilot unions. A new contract would cover wages, seniority and work rules.

The Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) filed the suit in the U.S. District Court in Philadelphia earlier this week. The union contends that it is illegal to merge the airlines until a single contract is reached between both pilot groups, as is required under the Railway Labor Act and an agreement reached by the parties in September 2005.

An ALPA news release about this matter says:
US Airways plans this weekend to eliminate America West's HP designator code from reservation systems, which means that all flights will be listed as a US Airways flight. The code elimination is in violation of the Transition Agreement negotiated with the two pilot groups that promised that the two airlines would remain separated until a single pilot collective bargaining agreement is reached.

The parties have been negotiating for a year and a half, but US Airways management is continuing to pass bankruptcy-era proposals that ignore the investment that the pilots made in order to keep their airline viable after 9/11. Until a single agreement is reached, the company must operate both airlines separately. Instead, management apparently is trying to reap the benefits of the merger without fulfilling their promise to first get a single, fair pilot contract.

ALPA contends that US Airways is violating their obligation to negotiate a single agreement and asks that the status quo be maintained until then.

"US Airways wants desperately for our pilots to look like, dress like, and act like they work for a merged airline. However, the only road to a real merged airline is through a single contract," said US Airways Master Executive Council Chairman Captain Jack Stephan. "Our pilot group will not tolerate management attaining synergies they haven't paid for or negotiated. Like our passengers, we are frustrated dealing with management’s empty promises and their reluctance to properly merge our airline."

"US Airways continues to drag the merger process on and on, to the detriment of our passengers and our employees," said America West Master Executive Council Chairman Captain John McIlvenna. "Instead of focusing on productive negotiations, management is trying to grab operational efficiencies they can't legally have. Until the America West and US Airways pilots have a fair, single contract, we are far from being one airline."
A Reuters article about the lawsuit, published on CNN Money, quotes US Airways officials who said that the change [in designator code] "was for marketing purposes only but would have no effect on operations - old America West crews would continue to work old America West aircraft and old US Airways crews would fly old US Airways planes."

Wow! Does that statement totally miss the point, or what?!

UPDATE Mar. 3, 2007: A U.S. District Court judge threw out the pilots' complaint at a hearing yesterday, saying that it was "a minor dispute that should be addressed in binding arbitration, not in court." [CNN Money]