Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Back to the bargaining table: Southwest Airlines pilots contract ratification vote fails

SWAPAThe membership of the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association (SWAPA) "officially declined to ratify a new five-year contract with Southwest Airlines." So said a press release issued by the union. According to SWAPA, the vote was very close: with over 95% of eligible pilots voting, just under 51% voted against the new contract. Nevertheless, a failure to ratify means it's back to the bargaining table.

Contract negotiations between Southwest Airlines and its pilots had begun as soon as the current contract became amendable back in September of 2006. A tentative contract agreement was reached in January of this year this year, and was endorsed by SWAPA's Board of Directors in March.

At that point, SWAPA President Capt. Carl Kuwitzky had said, "While this contract isn’t perfect, it does include improvements in many areas and shores up very old language that will protect our pilots'”

"Many in our pilot group are extremely sensitive to codesharing flights that Southwest Airlines could possibly fly. While some degree of codeshare is allowed in this contract, limitations on the Company help keep our jobs secure," Kuwitzky added.

Today SWAPA announced that they will reopen negotiations with Southwest Airlines after polling of the pilot group "to fully pinpoint the aspects that the pilots want to see readdressed in talks with the Company."

"Our pilots have spoken, and the group has stated there is more work to be done," Capt. Kuwitzky said after the vote results were announced. "This contract, despite some financial gains, contained too many other negative aspects to ratify it."

Speaking on behalf of Southwest Airlines management, Chuck Magill, Vice President of Flight Operations said, "We are naturally disappointed and acknowledge it was a very close vote."

"We reached a tentative agreement in good faith, and both sides put a lot of effort into getting to this point. We have an outstanding and highly productive group of Pilots, and we appreciate their active involvement in the voting process," said Magill. "We welcome the opportunity for our negotiating teams to re-engage and work toward an agreement that best meets the needs of our Company and our outstanding Pilots during these challenging economic times."