Wednesday, September 26, 2007

ASTAR Air Cargo pilots authorize strike

ASTAR Air Cargo pilotsPilots at ASTAR Air Cargo have authorized their union to call a strike, with 97% of members voting. The ASTAR pilots are represented by the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA).

The freight carrier's management and the pilots' union have been in contract negotiations since early 2005. More recently the parties have been working through the National Mediation Board (NMB) to try to reach an agreement, but ALPA says the parties still remain far apart on wage and compensation issues.

ASTAR pilots have not had a pay raise since 2002. A recent ALPA news release says, "ASTAR pilots want pay raises similar to what ASTAR management has provided itself. Pilots are also seeking job protection and retroactive pay."

Terms of the pilots' strike authorization would allow a strike or other work action whenever the NMB releases both sides from the talks.

Management at ASTAR Air Cargo disagrees with the pilots' view that contract talks have reached an impasse. A press release issued by ASTAR quotes Doug McKeen, Senior Vice President of Employee Relations and Communications, who called the strike authorization a "standard tactic in airline labor negotiations."

McKeen said "Negotiations between ASTAR and its pilots are currently ongoing under the exclusive control of the National Mediation Board and the mediator assigned by the National Mediation Board." He went on to say:
"Under the Railway Labor Act, the law that governs airline labor negotiations, the pilots may not initiate a strike and management may not pursue a lockout without first obtaining a release from the National Mediation Board. To date, the mediator has not advised the parties that they are at impasse, a step required before a release may occur, nor have the parties received any indication that a release is imminent in the near or distant future. Given these circumstances, the pilots have no authority to strike at this time. To be clear: if the pilots were to initiate a strike or other illegal activity outside this process, the Company would pursue all legal remedies."
ASTAR Air Cargo operates 44 aircraft from its hub in Wilmington, OH. It provides scheduled and charter services on a contract basis to DHL Worldwide Express, the U.S. military and the United States Postal Service.

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