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Federal Court Orders Allegiant Air To Restore Pilot Work Rules Altered in 2012

Daily Labor Report

A federal district court July 22 ordered Allegiant Air to restore two of four work rules covering pilots that the company altered after the International Brotherhood of Teamsters became their bargaining representative in 2012 and to modify two others (Teamsters v. Allegiant Air, LLC, 2014 BL 208280, D. Nev., No. 2:14-cv-00043, 7/22/14).

In granting part of the union's motion for a preliminary injunction, the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada found the Las Vegas-based low-cost carrier violated the Railway Labor Act and caused irreparable harm to pilots.

Although the pilots' previous bargaining representative was never certified by the National Mediation Board and apparently became defunct, its 2010 pilot work rules agreement with Allegiant constituted a contract under the RLA, and both the company and the IBT must maintain the “status quo” working conditions during bargaining, as required by the law, the court said.

The court said the IBT's bargaining position in negotiating a contract was “substantively weakened” because Allegiant's unilateral changes in working conditions lowered “the floor” that the union is seeking to raise through bargaining.

“The IBT has established a likelihood of success on its RLA claims and its breach of contract claim,” Judge Andrew P. Gordon said in the decision.

Rules Altered

The IBT was certified as the Allegiant pilots' bargaining representative in August 2012 and filed a notice with the carrier of its intent to negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement, according to the court decision.

That same month, the carrier, owned by Allegiant Travel Co., changed four of the 2010 pilot work rules, and the union filed its complaint in November 2013, claiming violations of the RLA and breach of contract.

The altered working conditions included a loss of medical certificate protection program for pilots who become ill or disabled; pay protections for pilots engaged in collective bargaining negotiations; leave-of-absence provisions for birth and adoption of a child; and the bidding system used for pilot scheduling.

Allegiant argued the Allegiant Air Pilots Advocacy Group, the party to the 2010 work rules agreement, was not the pilots' representative for RLA purposes because it was not recognized by the NMB, the company or the IBT in its application to become the bargaining agent. The company also claimed the agreement was not a contract for RLA purposes.

That the NMB and the IBT were not aware of the pilot group is not pertinent to the case, and the case does not constitute a representational dispute under the RLA that would be outside the court's jurisdiction, the district court found.

Regarding the nature of the agreement, the court cited written statements by Allegiant's chief executive officer that showed he recognized the previous advocacy group as the pilots' elected representative and believed the carrier and the group had formed binding agreements. In addition, the agreement met the RLA's requirements for a contract because it included wage rates, rules and working conditions, the court said.

Court Remedies

In the preliminary injunction, the court ordered the company to comply with the 2010 agreement's parental leave rule and loss of medical certificate program. It also directed Allegiant and the IBT to try to reach agreement within 30 days on the establishment of a board of adjustment to arbitrate the dispute over pay protections for pilots engaged in collective bargaining negotiations.

Regarding the fourth work rule change, the court directed the company to modify its new pilot scheduling system within 90 days to better respect seniority and provide greater transparency and predictability, but it did not order it to return to its previous scheduling system as requested by the IBT. A different system was needed to comply with the Federal Aviation Administration's new fatigue rule for pilots' duty and rest times, which took effect at the start of 2014, the court said.