Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Hawaiian Airlines pilots seek mediation of stalled contract talks

Hawaiian Airlines Boeing 767-300ERHawaiian Airlines (HAL) pilots are seeking mediation of their contract negotiations by the National Mediation Board (NMB). Contract negotiations, which have been underway between Hawaiian Airlines and its pilots for more than 18 months, have stalled. The pilots' union, the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), filed a request for mediation today, September 16, 2008, the day ALPA and the airline had agreed they could seek federal mediation if previous bargaining talks had failed.

"It has become clear Hawaiian is in no hurry to reach a fair and reasonable agreement. Instead, management is refusing to grant reasonable raises as a hedge against future economic uncertainty," said Captain Eric Sampson, Chairman of ALPA’s Hawaiian Airlines Master Executive Council. "After coming very close to an agreement during private mediation in June, progress at the table has reached a standstill since then. It is time for us to move to mediation with the NMB in hopes of reaching the fair agreement that our pilots have earned and deserve."

The pilots' union points out that over the past year, Hawaiian pilots have repeatedly assisted management by allowing non-ALPA pilots to ferry HAL widebody jets undergoing heavy maintenance, agreeing to be paid under existing rates when the airline acquires newer, longer-range aircraft, as well as sacrificing time off to fly extra hours when two of HAL’s prime competitors, Aloha and ATA Airlines, unexpectedly shut down in April.

"The company is now reporting significant profits and has achieved excellent operating results," Sampson said. "We recognize it’s a tough environment for airlines, but our proposals at the bargaining table have reflected that. Our request is modest and the company can certainly afford it, but Hawaiian apparently prefers to expand on the backs of its labor force. We cannot continue like this."

The pilot group also announced it would reactivate its Strategic Preparedness Committee and seek support from ALPA’s National Strategic Preparedness and Strike Committee. The Hawaiian Master Executive Council named Craig Kahauolopua to chair the Strategic Preparedness Committee, which is responsible for organizing activities before and during a strike. Capt. Kahauolopua is a Boeing 767 captain who also chairs the pilot group’s Security Committee.

The Hawaiian pilots’ contract became amendable on June 30, 2007. If the National Mediation Board accepts the pilots’ request for mediation, the Board will appoint a mediator who will contact the parties and establish a mediation schedule. Talks will continue either until the pilots reach a contract, or until the NMB releases the pilots into a 30-day cooling off period, the expiration of which could be followed by a lawful pilot strike.

"We certainly hope we are able to reach an amicable agreement with Hawaiian management," added Sampson, "but in case an agreement is not reached, we will be ready to pursue our other legal options."

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