Tuesday, January 15, 2008

American Airlines pilots want mediation of contract talks

Allied Pilots Association logoAmerican Airlines and its pilots' union, the Allied Pilots Association (APA), have been in contract negotiation since September 2006, and have been at an impasse since November of 2007. Although the bargaining process was initiated by American well ahead of the current contract's amendable date of May, 2008, the negotiations broke down when the airline insisted that the costs of the pilots' pay proposals could not be sustained, and would put American at a financial disadvantage, vis a vis its competitors.

For their part, the pilots had been seeking restoration of pay and benefits that they had accepted in 2003 in order to help American avoid bankruptcy. The pilots reason that they should have a fair share in the airline's subsequent financial recovery.

Late last week, the APA announced that it was inviting American Airlines management "to join in a request for National Mediation Board (NMB) involvement in the ongoing negotiations for a new pilots' contract." APA President, Capt. Lloyd Hill indicated that the union would wait until the close of business on Monday, January 14 for management's response to the union's invitation before contacting the NMB unilaterally.

Earlier today, American announced that it had rejected APA's request, saying the two sides could make more progress in direct negotiations. The Dallas Morning News reported:
"After considering the APA's offer to file a joint request for mediation, the company believes that remaining in joint control of the negotiation schedule and continuing direct bargaining with the APA is the best course to expeditiously reach an agreement," American official Denny Newgren said in a letter to the union's negotiating committee.

"We believe that in order to make substantial progress, it may make sense to consider using private facilitation and/or technical negotiating assistance offered by the National Mediation Board," Mr. Newgren wrote, "and we would like to discuss this idea further with the APA negotiating committee."
Mr. Newgren is managing director of employee relations for the flight department at American Airlines.

The pilots continue to contend that NMB mediation is warranted. The Dallas Morning News article quoted an APA spokesman who said he expects the union today to ask mediators to intervene despite American's letter.