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Atlast Air Negotiations History, Part II

As we approach the end of 2019, your negotiating committee thought a recap of the timeline since the beginning of the process would be useful.

The Atlas Air Negotiating Committee evolved out of what was formerly the Contract Study Committee back in 2015. At that time, we had created and published the first contract comparison document to ensure the pilot group was up to date with what other contracts throughout the industry provided to their respective members.

Following the contract comparison, the committee developed a series of surveys and polled the pilot group to give direction to the committee. The direction was clear: the pilot group wanted nothing less than an industry standard contract. Additional polls throughout the last few years confirmed the pilots’ desire. The Atlas Air pilots no longer wish to be at the bottom of the industry.

The negotiating committee then developed full proposals for an industry-standard collective bargaining agreement (CBA); industry standards based on the agreements in place at Delta Airlines, American Airlines, United Airlines, FedEx Express and UPS Air Cargo.  Since that time the negotiating committee has continued to update our files to ensure that any proposal we pass to management does, in fact, meet the current definition of the industry standard. The industry standard continues to evolve, especially in the area of compensation and benefits as new contracts are entered into by other airlines. This is the very definition of pattern bargaining. Had we made a full contract proposal at the beginning of bargaining, we would now be closing in on a contract with pay rates from 2016.

We then entered into Section Six negotiations with management in January of 2016 by using the 270-day early opener provision in Section 34 of the Atlas Air Cargo CBA.

On January 19, 2016, the first day of negotiations, management announced the purchase of Southern Air. Given the manner in which our negotiations have developed with ongoing lawsuits and management’s desire to “amalgamate” our contracts, we will leave you to come to your own conclusion as to why management chose to announce the purchase on the very day that negotiations began. We should point out that while the term “amalgamate” does not appear in our CBA, it is a shorthand term first used by Bill Flynn in an investor call to describe a process in Section 1.F.2 for merging contracts.

Shortly after the Southern Air acquisition was announced we approached the management to bring the Southern Air pilot group under the Atlas Contract. This was refused by management.  We tried multiple times to propose a bridge agreement to facilitate the merger of the seniority lists and provide for a rapid agreement for a joint collective bargaining agreement (JCBA).  Management would not entertain any path other than the amalgamation process that management previously employed in the Atlas/Polar merger – a path that in the best-case scenario for us would lead to nothing more than minor improvements to the quality of life items in the contract and the minimum pay raise management thinks that they can get away with. This proposal was, in other words, nothing close to the industry-standard CBA we all aspire to achieve.

From the first day of negotiations your committee has told management that we will meet at any time or place for as long as is necessary to come to an agreement on a new CBA. We have never wavered on this commitment. Never forget that we, too, are pilots on the seniority list whose greatest desire is to work under a new industry-standard CBA.  We have a vested interest in a new agreement as much as any of our fellow pilots. It is strange and nonsensical to us whenever it is suggested that we would somehow want to delay our own new CBA.

On June 12, 2017 we were able to come to an agreement with management on a framework agreement for negotiations. As you can see from the framework agreement, management agreed to negotiate the non-economic items not agreed to in 2016 in Block One and then the operational items such as scheduling, hours of service and reserve in Block Two before going to the compensation and cost items in Block Three. Importantly, the agreement also provided for the negotiation of scope to be completed prior to the completion of Block Two – before the completion of all economic items. This was a framework with structured blocks proposed by management and agreed to by us as we felt it was a logical order to move the process forward.  Compare this to the current position of management, which is that they now claim to need the whole contract proposal without agreeing to scope. Please ask yourselves: why was management able to agree to negotiate everything, including scope, before starting to negotiate the major economic items, but now management has taken the position that this approach is impossible?

To be clear, management had agreed to negotiate everything (including scope) before the compensation and cost items – rates, per diem, retirement, medical, etc. Management proved to be unable to live up to that agreement, so they decided to delay negotiations by unilaterally changing the terms of the negotiations, apparently to delay any progress.

Eventually progress came to an end and negotiations temporarily stopped. We asked management to come up with a framework agreement they could live up to since they had been unable to meet any of the goals they had in place for the original framework.

In February 2019 management entered into a new framework agreement with us. (Link) As you can see, this new agreement lacked any kind of structure, leaving negotiation topics completely open. Also included was a provision reimbursing the union for some of the economic cost of negotiations. This has helped us build our funds for negotiations to the point now where we plan on ending the assessment in the near future as we feel we have sufficient funds to complete bargaining.

Today we have 17 of the 35 total articles completed. We consider 15 articles to have achieved the industry standard benchmark and two articles as industry-leading. We are committed and ready to finish an industry-standard CBA as soon as possible. 

Last week we concluded the last scheduled negotiations session of 2019, where we were stonewalled once again at the negotiating table. We passed proposals on Article 25 – Scheduling, Article 12 – Hours of Service and Article 7 – Vacations. We also gave a response to management’s last proposal on Article 1 – Scope. We are disappointed to report that we did not make any meaningful progress. What we need is a willing partner to negotiate with; we need it, you need it, and at this point in time, the company desperately needs it too. We welcome the missing component that is needed to achieve our mutual goals.


Your Atlas Air and Southern Air Negotiating Committee