Talks Are "Contentious And Unsatisfactory "
The airline that sold wealthy
travelers on the concept of fractional ownership of luxury business
jets has been unsuccessful in convincing its pilots to accept
proposals for a new collective bargaining agreement.
The National Mediation Board has appointed a mediator to
participate in negotiations between NetJets, Inc. and the
International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Airline Division, Local
284. NetJets, Inc. is the largest fractional airline in the nation,
serving an elite customer base that owns shares in small to heavy
luxury business jets.
The Teamsters represent pilots, flight attendants, maintenance
technicians and service personnel employed by Columbus, Ohio based
NetJets Aviation, Inc. The mediator was appointed at the request of
the union. The contract under negotiation covers approximately
NetJets management and the pilot’s union have been in
negotiations for over two years. The current collective bargaining
agreement became amendable on October 1, 2001. In 1998, billionaire
investor Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, Inc. purchased
NetJets, Inc. The company’s website describes it as "the
financially strongest aviation company in the world."
Dave Vermeulen, a NetJets pilot who
serves as the chairman of the pilots’ Master Executive
Council and a business representative for the Teamsters, describes
negotiations as "contentious and largely unsatisfactory from a
pilot standpoint." Pilot schedules, geographical basing
requirements, the length of duty and rest periods, and the ability
of the company to perform flights with non-union pilots are at the
core of the dispute.
The Teamsters accuse management of making regressive proposals
despite the company’s continuing dominance of the fractional
airline industry. "Management totally out of touch if they believe
pilots are willing to go backwards in any area of their
contract," Vermeulen said. "Many of their proposals have been
dead on arrival."
According to published data, NetJets claims a market share of
approximately 72 percent, up from near 54 percent two years ago. An
August 2003 study by Aviation Research Group US, Inc. rated NetJets
as the industry leader in owner loyalty and customer service.
The union intends to propose
significant salary and benefit increases after attempting to
resolve disputed working conditions with the assistance of the
mediator. "Our negotiators have informed the company that dramatic
improvements in working conditions and compensation are expected
and will be secured, one way or the other," Vermeulen
A seven year captain receives a gross salary of $67,560.00
annually. First officer pay is capped at $32,160.00. Approximately
thirty pilots assigned to the Boeing Business Jet, a luxury 737
capable of long distance international trips, earn more.
"NetJets’ customers represent an elite segment of the
flying public – the very wealthy, athletes and
entertainers," Vermeulen said. "Many of them would be shocked
to learn that the pilots who fly them earn significantly less than
commercial and corporate pilots."
Mediator Brad Laslett will be in Columbus, Ohio for negotiations
beginning November 11. Laslett has scheduled additional
negotiation sessions throughout the winter.