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Pilots Flying For DHL Express To Enter Federally Mediated Contract Negotiations With Atlas Air

(Washington, D.C.) -- The International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Teamsters Airline Division and APA Teamsters Local 1224, filed for mediation with the National Mediation Board (NMB) recently after Atlas Air refused to engage in any further legally-mandated negotiations. Last week the federal government accepted the request of the union representing more than 1,300 pilots flying for DHL-contracted airlines Atlas Air, Inc. and Polar Air Cargo to mediate contract negotiations with the airlines.

The NMB is the federal agency that facilitates labor-management relations in aviation and railroad industries. Atlas Air and its parent company, Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings, Inc. (AAWW), strongly objected to the pilots’ request for mediation. In approving the pilots’ request, the NMB has assigned a seasoned airline labor mediator to assess the parties’ dispute and determine how best to proceed with negotiations.

“Pilots are fed up with Atlas and AAWW’s game playing and backroom corporate maneuvering to try to deny us basic workplace protections like the much-needed time to rest between international flights,” said Captain Mike Griffith, an Atlas pilot and Communications Chairman of APA Teamsters Local 1224. “AAWW and Atlas have a history of this game playing and need to be held accountable. We believe the federal government intervening will make sure they work with us to come to a fair contract agreement that is up to cargo industry standards.”

After its recent acquisition of Southern Air Holdings, Inc. (SAI), AAWW became affiliated with two additional carriers, Southern Air Inc., and Florida West International Airways. AAWW and Atlas Air have insisted that Atlas Air pilots stop ongoing contract negotiations and merge their contract with the Southern Air pilots’ existing contract. This would have a devastating impact by suppressing wages and lowering quality of life issues for pilots at Atlas Air and Polar Air Cargo, denying Southern Air and Atlas pilots of much needed gains, and could ultimately ripple throughout the industry.

The Southern Air contract was negotiated several years ago while Southern Air was in bankruptcy and contains wage, benefit and job protections that fall far below cargo industry standards. The current Atlas Air contract is also below industry standards. According to a comparison study conducted by Teamsters Local 1224, AAWW pilots 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.

Pilots’ concerns about AAWW’s direction have been growing. Executives are attempting to run a flight operation with an insufficient number of pilots who are overworked and underpaid. Many are expressing their frustration by leaving to work for better paying carriers, undermining the airline’s ability to attract and retain experienced pilots.
AAWW’s $100 million dollar cash acquisition this year of financially-troubled SAI was touted by the company as a positive move for both pilots and the long-term success of AAWW as the company attempts to establish its position as a leader in the cargo and express delivery markets. But shortly after the acquisition was announced, AAWW executives outraged pilots when their intentions were made clear that they expected to wrest wage and job protective concessions from Atlas Air pilots to help pay for the acquisition.

AAWW and Atlas Air’s management have stepped up harassment and intimidation of pilots. AAWW and Atlas Air’s attempts to manipulate the negotiations process and intimidate pilots have only backfired for the company-- Atlas Air and Southern Air pilots announced a strike vote last month and are currently in the voting process.
Germany-based DHL and Chile based-LAN Cargo also risk financial harm if AAWW and Atlas Air continue to refuse to negotiate fairly with pilots. DHL could specifically be at risk as it tries to reenter the North American express delivery market and compete head-to-head with UPS and FedEx.

DHL owns 49 percent of AAWW’s Polar Air Cargo and is estimated to account for more than 50 percent of Atlas Air’s business. DHL is also the exclusive customer of AAWW’s newly acquired Southern Air, Inc. Teamsters Local 1224 has raised questions regarding DHL’s behind-the-scenes role in AAWW and SAI’s affairs and has asked the Department of Transportation to intervene to ensure that DHL is not violating federal aviation laws and regulations prohibiting interference with United States air carriers by foreign entities.

Germany-based DHL is one of the largest businesses in the world. It has a record of engaging in unfair labor practices around the globe and encouraging the dilution of local labor standards. The company has closed bases, upended families and communities in the process. In 2008, the company announced its plan to cut 9,500 U.S. jobs. Despite overwhelming opposition from impacted communities, pilots, and members of Congress, the move resulted in 8,000 layoffs in a single town – Wilmington, Ohio – and devestated the community and its local businesses.

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