Wednesday, October 27, 2010

CommutAir pilots protest proposed 9% pay cut

by B. N. Sullivan

Pilots for CommutAir, a Continental Connection carrier, picketed at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport yesterday to protest proposed pay cuts they say would make them the lowest-paid pilots for their aircraft type in the airline industry.

CommutAir pilots are represented by the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA).  In a statement to the press, the union said:
Coming at a time when experts agree the regional airline sector needs improvement, the pilots warned that CommutAir management’s plan to lower their wages is a direct assault on efforts to raise standards among regional carriers.

“No one wins in a race to the bottom,” said Colgan Air Capt. Mark Segaloff, who was recently elected to represent the CommutAir group as an executive vice-president of the Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l. (ALPA).  The CMT pilots joined the Association in 2008 and are negotiating their first union contract.

“Under CommutAir’s most recent contract offer, a new-hire pilot would make less than $20,000 a year,” Segaloff continued.  “Every airline pilot has a stake in what’s happening at this small airline, because if CommutAir is successful in cutting pay when the industry is coming out of its slump, they will lower the bar for regional pilots across the country.”

The 134 pilots of CommutAir, based in North Olmsted, OH, began negotiations 20 months ago.  In September the company unveiled its economic proposal: a 9 percent pay cut.  ALPA’s economic proposal requests pay increases to bring the low-paying airline into parity with pilots flying similar turboprop aircraft.

“All the CommutAir pilots are asking for is an industry-standard wage.  My airline, Mesaba, American Eagle, ExpressJet, and others have all weathered the same financial storms CommutAir has, and they set the market rate,” said Comair Capt. Mark Cirksena, who traveled from Cincinnati to support the CommutAir picketers.  “The pilots at CommutAir need a living wage with a reasonable quality of life.”
Joining the CommutAir pilots on the picket line were ALPA members from 13 other carriers, including Continental, Delta, AirTran, ExpressJet, Colgan, Comair, Spirit, Mesaba, Air Wisconsin, Mesa, North American, Atlantic Southeast, and Trans States.

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