Monday, January 05, 2009

Continental Airlines Pilots Press for New Contract

Continental Airlines logoPilots at Continental Airlines are pressing for a renewed focus on negotiations for a new contract. According to the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), the union representing approximately 5,000 pilots at Continental, their current contract became amendable on Dec. 31, 2008. While negotiations for a new contract were begun back in July 2007, the parties have completed tentative agreements for eight sections of the contract to date. ALPA says that dozens more items remain untouched, including prime issues such as pay, work rules, benefits and retirement.

In a New Year's Eve news release, Capt. Jay Pierce, leader of the Continental pilots' unit of ALPA, said, "Our pilots have been working long enough under the concessions of our current contract -- over $200M in concessions each year since it was signed in 2005. The givebacks that were designed to help keep Continental out of bankruptcy were a 'loan' to secure our futures -- that loan was due Dec. 31, 2008 and now it is past due. We're calling for an earnest effort by management to negotiate a new contract."

Although much of 2008 was a tough year for airlines, the industry is now seeing record low fuel prices and increased revenue through added fees and more profitable routes. Continental is poised for a turnaround in 2009. Says Capt. Pierce, "Just as we were a partner in sharing the pain needed to prevent bankruptcy, we should be a full partner in the plans for the future. What the pilots are owed is more than relief from concessions. We need relief from the fatigue and stress of flying more hours, strengthened quality of life through our work rules, strengthened retirement and benefits that are there for us when we need them and more robust job security protections as Continental changes its alliance structure."