Concerns over growing shortage of qualified mechanics at NetJets grows
The Teamsters Airline Division and Teamsters Local 284 are concerned that NetJets management is ignoring a growing shortage of qualified aircraft mechanics to the detriment of customers, workers and the business itself.
“Senior aircraft technicians are telling NetJets management that they need more NetJets mechanics in the field, but management is ignoring their advice,” said Chris Moore, Chairman of the Teamsters Aviation Mechanics Coalition. “Instead of trying to recruit and retain the mostly highly skilled technicians, NetJets refuses to pay industry-standard wages and continues to outsource high levels of critical maintenance. The situation on the shop floor at NetJets is going from bad to worse every day. These maintenance workers are angry at management and they have run out of patience.”
NetJets mechanics and other safety employees have not received a pay increase for more than five years. The company and the union have been in contract negotiations for nearly six years. The union blames management’s outsourcing philosophy and low-pay proposals for the delay. NetJets Aviation, Inc. and NetJets Sales, Inc. only employ 111 aircraft mechanics to work on its fleet of approximately 400 aircraft. Other major airlines employ up to 10 mechanics for every one aircraft.
“We don’t believe that NetJets customers have all the facts when it comes to who is performing the maintenance on their aircraft,” said Mark Vandak, President of Local 284 in Columbus. “The reality of the situation is that the majority of people performing critical aircraft maintenance don’t work for NetJets. When our members complain, they’re told that NetJets isn’t in the maintenance business. NetJets flies airplanes for profit. That makes no sense whatsoever.”
In contract negotiations, management continues to reject union proposals that would result in the assignment of more critical maintenance functions to mechanics, as well as measures that would support workers employed by NetJets. NetJets mechanics say that they sit idle while individuals who work for third parties perform maintenance procedures on customer aircraft—sometimes at the very same location where skilled NetJets technicians are located.
“It’s unacceptable that NetJets has caused a situation where its own highly skilled aircraft technicians and maintenance support workers have to try to convince management to assign them critical maintenance work at competitive wages,” said Capt. David Bourne, Director of the Teamsters Airline Division. “The customers pay for a premium service. We believe they expect NetJets to have a well-developed, in-house maintenance system staffed by highly paid aircraft maintenance professionals. With a worsening shortage of qualified mechanics, management needs to work with us, not against us, to solve a very real problem.”
Mediation at sub-ASA ends, “Last, Best, Final Offer” to go to a vote
Federally mediated negotiations between more than 360 mechanics represented by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) and ExpressJet subsidiary Atlantic Southeast Airlines (ASA) ended on Thursday, March 30. The carrier told the union that it had provided all of the wage increases it was able to, and that further bargaining on economics would be fruitless.
Under the Teamsters Constitution, such a “last, best and final” offer must be voted upon by the membership. The IBT is planning to ask its membership to vote on the carrier’s proposed contract in the coming weeks, with a final result likely to be announced in May.
The Teamsters first won the right to represent the mechanics at ASA in October 2010, when it was a stand-alone regional carrier. It was purchased by SkyWest and merged with ExpressJet shortly thereafter. Bargaining on a first contract commenced shortly after the mechanics’ vote, but has failed to produce a contract after more than six years of negotiations, several of those years with the help of a federal mediator with the National Mediation Board.
“The Teamsters Airline Division is very disappointed that the company could not meet what we feel are reasonable wage proposals. Mechanics are leaving ASA to go to better paying airlines. Our Teamster mechanics at United and UPS make more in their first year than ASA mechanics make after 10 or 15 years. That’s a reflection of how this airline treats it workers. We’re disappointed, and we think our membership will be too when they vote in upcoming weeks,” said Capt. David Bourne, Director of the Teamsters Airline Division.
ASA merged with ExpressJet Airlines in 2011. Its shrinking fleet of regional aircraft flies as a feeder for Delta Airlines and American Airlines. ASA flies more than 20 percent of Delta’s regional routes.
“The poor morale, rapid attrition of mechanics and inability to attract new mechanics will inevitably have an impact on their performance as a carrier,” Bourne said.
Cape Air LoA provides incentives to cover anticipated seasonal shortage
Despite being temporarily grounded with a broken leg, Cape Air ExCo Chairman Captain Marilyn Rhude has not lost her focus on protecting her pilots. “Going in to our busy season in the northeast, we do not have the pilots that we had hoped we would to cover anticipated flying,” she said. “The company approached the union to loosen up the restrictions on how the company can use on-call pilots. Currently, the company cannot award a shift to an on call pilot out of open time pool until it is 7 days before the shift.”
Working with management, the union set up an incentive program to entice full time Captains to work overtime, and in exchange union would allow the company to schedule on call pilots further out, which allows them to pre sell tickets.
Full time pilots will have 10 days after bids have been awarded to pick up shifts from all available flying from June to October. For each of these shifts, pilots will be paid an incentive of $500/per shift. At the end of the 10 days, any additional shifts picked up by full time pilots will have an incentive of $300/per shift. Once the 10 day period is up, the company may schedule on call pilots to available shifts.
In addition, all full time pilots employed from June-Oct will receive an end of season bonus of $5000. Additionally, an incentive will be offered at the end of the bid period. Pilots who pick up 5 shifts from June-Oct will receive an additional $500, ten extra shifts will be awarded $1000 and fifteen shifts will be awarded $2500.
“We’re pleased to have concluded this LoA between the union and company,” said Chairman Rhude. “This is a win for our pilots and the company as well our customers. I want to thank the Airline Division for their assistance in this as well.”
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