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Airline Division News, Week Ending November 26, 2016

ABX pilots strike over repeated Status Quo violations by management 

On November 22nd, the ABX Pilots and your Union, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Airline Division (IBT) and its affiliated local, Teamsters Local 1224 (collectively, the Union) commenced a lawful strike against ABX.  Local 1224 and the ABX Pilots established primary picket lines against ABX at CVG and ILN. 

In a message to members, Local 1224 President Daniel Wells said: 

“Over the last at least 18 months, while intentionally understaffing its growing operations, ABX has just as intentionally and repeatedly ignored and suspended, if not downright repudiated, explicit contractual work rules relating to the ABX pilots’ scheduling and vacation rights and protections. 

ABX has not made any effort to justify its actions. Instead, ABX recently filed a lawsuit in federal court against the Union in a transparent ploy to get a federal judge to bail it out from what it has acknowledged is a staffing crisis.  Recognizing that ABX’s staffing crisis is one that is entirely of its own making, the federal court quickly saw through ABX’s deception and dismissed the case.  

In his ruling earlier in the month, U.S. District Judge Timothy S. Black confirmed pilots’ concerns in his recent dismissal of a motion from ABX Air and ATSG for a temporary restraining order against the pilots and their union, writing in his ruling: “… by the end of the first quarter of 2016, approximately 40 percent of ABX captains and 33 percent of its first officers had already been forced to fly the contractually allowed emergency assignments.” 

Despite losing in court, ABX has stubbornly refused to restore the contractual scheduling and vacation rights and protections that it unilaterally and illegally changed. In the face of ABX’s continued refusal to cure those violations, the Union and the ABX pilots were left with no choice other than to commence a status quo strike against ABX. 

The ABX pilots’ strike is what is known as a “status quo strike.”  By law, carriers, including ABX, are prohibited from altering contractual rates of pay, rules and working conditions and established past practices while they remain subject to the jurisdiction of the NMB and continue to negotiate with the employees and their union over the amendment of their collective bargaining agreement.  This requirement is known as the duty to maintain the status quo. 

When a carrier unilaterally makes substantive changes to wages or terms and conditions of employment that are contrary to an existing contract, the dispute is characterized as a “major dispute” over which a union may lawfully engage in a status quo strike.  As its name suggests, a status quo strike is for the sole purpose of forcing the carrier to restore the status quo.” 

A union can lawfully engage in a status quo strike even if the collective bargaining agreement contains a no-strike clause.  Once the carrier “cures” its status quo violation and “restores the status quo,” however, the union must stop the strike. 

Support from pilots at other carriers across the industry was immediate and strong. However, late in the day on November 23rd, the judge issued a Temporary Restraining Order, ordered the pilots back to work. Noting his concern for the public, Judge Timothy Black, of the U.S. Court for the Southern District of Ohio wrote; “Absent an injunction, ABX, its customers, and the public will suffer immediate, irreparable harm. Imagine Christmas without Amazon!” 

In contrast to what appeared to be a very cavalier attitude towards the pilots concerns about safety and repeated violations of their contract, one pilots comments during the strike stand in stark contrast to the judges concerns about Christmas without Amazon. 

“I take my job as a pilot seriously, and I’m committed to serving ABX Air and our customers, but I’m also a father of a little girl and help care for my aging mother,” said Randy Riesbeck, a longtime ABX pilot. “On numerous occasions I have had to miss my daughter’s school events and previously scheduled medical appointments for my mother, all because ABX Air emergency assigned me to work on a day I had scheduled off. How am I supposed to explain to my daughter why I wasn’t there to see her grow up? How do I explain to my mother that I can’t take her to the doctor?” 

IBT, Amerijet Pilots Reach Tentative Agreement with Management 

Teamster pilots at Amerijet have reached a tentative agreement on a four-year contract with the airline. There are 85 members in the bargaining unit represented by Local 769 in North Miami, FL. 

The four-year agreement includes a massive initial increase in base wages for Captains and First Officers of more than 55 to 75 percent, with yearly wage increases on top of the signing boost. Enhancements to seniority and sick leave are also included in the contract language. 

“This is a contract we are proud to take to the membership,” said Captain David Bourne, Director of the Teamsters Airline Division. “For over three years, these pilots have been facing significant obstacles to a contract and threats to their professional livelihoods. The unity they’ve displayed is remarkable and the rewards for it are reflected in this agreement.” 

“The wage increases, scope of coverage and job protection language are major improvements for these pilots,” said David Renshaw, a business agent at Local 769 and lead negotiator for the Amerijet negotiations. “Not only did the pilots show tremendous solidarity, but we received a positive boost at the table thanks to support from the Airline Division and a management team that was willing to have productive talks with us. We look forward to voting on this agreement.” 

Ratification meetings will take place on Wed., Nov. 30, Sun., Dec. 4, 2016 and Mon., Dec. 5, 2016. The redline version of the agreement will be shared with crew by this Sunday. 

TMC Discussions Continue 

Negotiations for the TMC Collective Bargaining Agreement resumed on Wednesday, November 16, 2016, in Elkhart, IN. 

Union representatives began working in caucus, preparing proposals for four new sections, covering the introduction of new aircraft, a cooperative relationship between the Union and management, proposals for pilots’ work schedules and details about 401(k) plans and company matching contributions. 

Formal bargaining with CEO Scott Wise opening the session by giving an update on the current state of the Company. He first addressed the recent announcement about the elimination of the Challenger CSR position to “ensure our cost structure is in line with the product we deliver.” 

With TMC’s Seniority List now down to 165 pilots and steadily shrinking, management stated their focus has been on pilot recruiting. TMC recently welcomed a new Pilot Recruiter and announced that a new hire class was scheduled to begin on Thursday, November 17th, but with only two candidates. 

Mr. Wise said management is still working on the Nextant 400XT aircraft deal, but gave no details. When asked about the Citation X rumors, he said, “There is a lot going on right now, so it cannot be ruled out.” He commented that adding another fleet type could be distracting at this time. 

In only 11 bargaining sessions, spanning just shy of a year and a half, the union has now presented 25 of the 30 sections that will comprise the future CBA.  Eleven sections have been TA’d, with the remaining sections either in discussion or awaiting initial counter-proposals from management. One LOA has also been agreed to.  

Negotiations have now moved squarely into economic areas that will have a direct impact on the Company’s overall operation and bottom line.  Discussions on Vacations and Insurance are quickly approaching and will likely spur significant resistance from management due to manpower and economic consequences. 

Direct bargaining will be completed early next year. Union representatives reminded management that only a few sections remain to be proposed before everything is out on the bargaining table. Once that has been accomplished; most likely by the end of the February session; if management continues to resist meeting industry standards, the Union will approach the National Mediation Board and request the assignment of a federal mediator, which is the next step in the RLA process. 

Next bargaining session is scheduled the week of January 10th – 13th, 2017. 

Lack of serious negotiation by management leads to mandatory arbitration for Flight Options pilots 

With the expiration of the nine month time frame to reach a JCBA at Flight Options on November 24th, union negotiators are proceeding with the next step of the process; meeting with management and agreeing on the selection of an arbitrator to proceed with the resolution of a fully merged agreement, as is required in Section 1.5(c)(4) of the Flight Options Pilots CBA. 

According to union negotiators; management has repeatedly stalled the negotiations process; refusing to honestly negotiate the JCBA, agreeing to no sections during the nine month time frame, they have also refused to select an arbitrator, further exhibiting dilatory tactics. 

After multiple inquiries counsel for the Company has finally provided dates for the selection of an arbitrator. While the Company has finally provided dates in the last week of the month to meet and select an arbitrator, the obstructionist hurdles management continues to present with regard to the actual arbitration process remain unresolved. 

In a message to the membership the committee noted; “Your JNC has only three remaining JCBA Sections to propose before proceeding to arbitration: JCBA Section 3––Definitions; JCBA Section 8––Vacations; and, JCBA Section 24––Insurance. All of these sections are under final consideration by the JNC and will be presented during the final session scheduled for November 30th to December 2nd. Your negotiators will also present any revisions to previously proposed JCBA sections necessary to address required changes to initial proposals.” 

The name of the arbitrator and dates for arbitration will be announced to the membership as soon as they are available. 

In Memoriam 

It is with great sadness that we announce the passing if Atlas Air First Officer Ryan Reese.  

Operating as part of the crew operating a Boeing 747LCF enroute from Seattle to Nagoya, Japan, Ryan suffered a heart attack. Despite heroic efforts by another crewmember, who performed CPR for over an hour and a half while the Captain diverted the flight to Anchorage, he did not survive.  

In addition to ANC Airport Fire and EMS that met the flight on arrival, Local 1224 CIRP member Mara Steven met and stayed with the crew members on board the LCF while EMT and police arrived conducted their required interviews. 

In a message to Atlas crewmembers, Laurie Ruiz De Castilla, of APA Teamsters Local 1224 Critical Incident Response Program said: 

“It was a cold, windy Saturday afternoon by the south side of the Appalachian Mountains near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania where family and friends of our Atlas colleague Ryan Reese paid their last respects.  Many Atlas and Northeastern friends attended, as well as Atlas Executive Council Chairman Bob Kirchner.   

Atlas Air Director of Operations Captain Scott Ridgeway and Kurt Hayes had the honor of escorting Ryan’s body from Anchorage to Pennsylvania where he was met by family.” 

Donations to benefit the family can be made via PayPal to https://paypal.me/ryanlookup.

Airline Industry News 

Governmental and Regulatory

Transportation leaders in both the House and Senate believe the case for modernizing our skies has strengthened and air traffic control reform could progress under the Trump administration. Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee chairman, said that the Federal Aviation Administration has spent billions of dollars without bringing fundamental change to ATC management.  

Federal Aviation Administration's NextGen modernization effort will cost $5.7 billion, according to a new inspector general's report. Work has gone on for a decade, and there is no timetable or cost estimate in place for when it will complete. Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa., the chairman of the House Transportation Committee, renewed his call for air traffic control reform with the release of the report. 

US airlines reported strong operational performance in September, including the fewest number of cancelled flights ever since the Department of Transportation started keeping track in 1995, at 0.3% cancellations for the month. US airlines posted an on-time arrival rate of 85.5% for September, according to the DOT. 

Airlines, Industry and Labor

United Airlines announced several strategies for earnings growth, which are expected to improve earnings by $4.8 billion by 2020. The carrier also plans to maximize the fuel efficiency of its fleet. 

More than 200 aircraft appearance technicians have ratified a new four-year labor deal with Southwest Airlines. "Our appearance technicians [now] have a new contract that provides increased pay and benefits and supports the company's long-term business plan," said Southwest Maintenance Operations Vice President Landon Nitschke. 

American Airlines delivered 100 turkey dinners to Cold Bay, Alaska, to thank the community for its hospitality. 

United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz says the recent investment by Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway is a "Good Housekeeping seal of approval" for the industry and United. "It also provides what I call an anchor tenant in this industry and our stock," he said. 

Alaska Air Group is close to winning regulatory approval for its $2.6 billion merger with Virgin America, according to a Reuters report. The Department of Justice review of the deal could finish by month's end.