(FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla.) – Pilots from Kalitta Air, a DHL contractor, are protesting in Fort Lauderdale today to tell Kalitta executives and DHL that they are united and ready to strike. The pilots are joined in solidarity by pilots from other North American DHL contractors – Atlas Air, Southern Air, Polar Air and ABX Air.
Holding signs reading “Pilots and Families Deserve a Fair Deal from DHL” and “Kalitta Air Pilots Ready to Strike,” the group is marching outside the location of a Kalitta bargaining meeting. The meeting is a short distance from the headquarters of DHL’s U.S. operation – DHL Express – in Plantation, Florida.
Recently, over 2,000 pilots from Kalitta, Atlas, Southern, Polar and ABX voted with 99 percent support to strike should it be necessary. A cargo pilot strike would cripple DHL’s global operation as these carriers account for approximately 70 percent of DHL’s total global flying.
“Kalitta pilots have had enough of the company’s refusal to work with us to come to an industry-standard contract agreement that gives our families the stability we need,” said Scott Nelson, a Kalitta Air pilot. “Kalitta’s performance has been stellar and DHL is bringing in record profits. The pilots who keep their operations running deserve to be treated fairly.”
For over five years, Kalitta Air has refused to negotiate fairly with its pilots, and as a result, the pilots are working with a substandard, outdated contract and are forced to struggle with pay and benefits that fall below cargo industry standards with little or no job security. The company’s delay to negotiate has backfired, pushing many pilots to leave the airline for more stable jobs at passenger carriers with market-standard contracts and working conditions. In May, Kalitta Air walked away from the bargaining table without responding to the pilots’ proposal, prompting the pilots to inform the federal mediators that negotiations had reached an impasse. At a time when a pilot shortage is becoming an industry-wide concern, the airline’s ability to keep up with the demands of DHL and other customers could be at risk.
DHL reported €59.2 billion ($66.7 billion US dollars) in increased consolidated revenue this past year, with the express division – which is based in Plantation, FL and includes the operations of Kalitta Air, Atlas Air, Polar Air, Southern Air and ABX Air – being its strongest and most profitable division.
Pilots from the five carriers have been raising concerns about how DHL and the American cargo carriers it contracts with are driving down standards throughout the industry. In addition to Kalitta, many of the DHL contractors are refusing to negotiate fairly with their pilots and are trying to force them into substandard contracts that lack basic job security and would have a devastating impact by suppressing wages and lowering quality of life.
“Every day, pilots who fly for DHL deliver the things that keep our world running like critical medical equipment, military supplies and packages from mom,” said Captain Bobby Boyd from Atlas Air who is protesting today. “We are standing together and ready to strike because it doesn’t make sense that a foreign company and its contractors are leading a global race to the bottom that is hurting everyone in both the cargo industry and the logistics industry.”
A comparison study conducted by the pilots’ union, Teamsters Local 1224, shows that many of the pilots in DHL’s network are paid considerably less and work much longer hours than pilots who fly for UPS or FedEx. Pilots at Atlas, Polar and Southern reported being forced to fly long hours with minimal rest time in between flights, leading to dangerous fatigue.