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Fri, May 15, 2009

Union Troubles Strike... Pilot's Union

World’s Largest Pilots’ Union Claims Bargaining Impasse

OK, there may be some poetic justice at work here... in which a well-known aviation-oriented union has troubles... with its own unionized workers. 

According to the unionized employees of the Airline Pilot's Association, management 'elected to unilaterally impose new work rules on their unionized Unit 1 professional staff after contract negotiations between the two failed to produce an agreement. ALPA asserts the parties were at an impasse and that ALPA had the ability to simply and unilaterally impose new work rules. Unit 1 disputes this contention.'

“This type of intransigent behavior is what ALPA fights against on behalf of its members every single day,” said Jay Wells, president of Unit 1 of the Union of Air Line Pilots Association Professional and Administrative Employees (UALPAPAE). “For the world’s largest pilots’ union to impose non-negotiated work rules on its own staff merely because it was unable to reach a consensual agreement on its own timetable is shocking.”

“ALPA is quick to point out its continual support of the labor movement and its successes in its negotiations with airline management,” Wells said, “but when it comes to its own staff, ALPA management is more about ‘do as I say, not as I do.’”

In a company-wide memo distributed March 20, ALPA management laid out its case for a two-year, cost-neutral contract that would sustain the association’s financial viability during this current economic downturn. However, when ALPA management came to the negotiating table and realized Unit 1’s willingness to achieve that cost-neutral goal, Unit 1 contends that management negotiators demanded more than they needed.

The two sides failed to reach an agreement prior to the March 31 deadline of Unit 1’s contract, and both agreed to mediation. When mediation culminated in mid-April, ALPA’s “last, best, final offer” was rejected by Unit 1 negotiators and Unit 1 members passed a resolution to extend the deadline to allow continued mediation, hoping management would agree to stronger job security language in exchange for Unit 1’s agreement to meet management’s demand to scale back accrued retiree health plan benefits. That extension allowed ALPA to hold it’s regularly scheduled Executive Board meeting and conduct its vote to merge with the National Pilots Association, which represents the pilots of AirTran.

Unit 1 negotiators returned to the table April 30 with additional concessions. However, ALPA negotiators came to the table with nothing but the same “last, best, final offer” they had last presented.

“Unit 1 understands the need for concessions and is willing to do what is necessary to help ensure ALPA’s financial stability,” said Wells. “However, Unit 1 staff is not willing, nor should they be required, to sacrifice much-needed work rule enhancements that are standard in union contracts nation-wide and in every ALPA contract that is negotiated on behalf of our members.” When no deal was reached, on May 7 ALPA unilaterally imposed changes in work rules and imposed cuts in the staff’s health retirement benefits over the objections of Unit 1.

In March, Unit 1 filed a charge of unfair labor practices against ALPA management with the National Labor Relations Board. The in-house union contends ALPA management failed to meet its obligation to disclose information requested by Unit 1 about ALPA’s plan to conduct employee layoffs in early 2009. Unit 1 also claims ALPA management failed to meet its obligation to bargain over the planned layoffs in violation of Sections 8(a)(1) and (5) of the National Labor Relations Act.

The nearly 60 year old Unit 1 of UALPAPAE represents nearly 170 staffers, including labor lawyers, economic analysts, retirement specialists, air safety engineers and communications practitioners at ALPA. ALPA represents 54,000 pilots at 36 airlines in North America.

FMI: http://myunit1.org, www.alpa.org

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