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Tue, Aug 05, 2008

American Airlines Pilots Sue To Block Overtime

Wants To Ban Practice To Curb Furloughs

Hoping to block American Airlines' reliance on flight crews flying more hours to maintain schedules, even as the airline moves to furlough 200 pilots, the Allied Pilots Association sued the carrier Friday for the right to tell its members not to work voluntary overtime.

The Dallas Morning News reports the union is "committed to using legal methods for mitigating pilot furloughs," in the words of APA president Captain Lloyd Hill. Some of the pilots slated to be cut, as American works to slash its workforce by 7,000 jobs, are pilots who came off furloughs within the past several months.

"Being furloughed twice in such a short period of time, especially when it's so easily avoidable, would be a tremendous hardship for these pilots and their families," he said.

American Airlines spokeswoman Sue Gordon would not comment on the union's lawsuit, saying she had not read it.

Under current rules, pilots at American may work five additional hours past their designated maximum of 78 hours. In July, the airline proposed new guidelines that, under some situations, would allow pilots to work as much as 95 hours a month.

For pilots looking to make extra money, that stipulation could amount to a windfall... but the APA reminded its 12,000 members those extra hours would come on the backs of their fellow pilots, should the airline be allowed to implement the plan.

There's just one problem with APA's very public grandstanding, however. According to labor relations expert John Budd, the union might not be able to force its members not to work O/T.

"This is just a clever way ... of telling their members they think they can forgo voluntary overtime without telling them directly, which might be illegal," said Budd, a director of graduate studies for the University of Minnesota.

Labor law professor Michael LeRoy countered APA's move is meant to throw a wrench in American's plans.  "It's an effort to circumvent the airline's unilateral implementation of the furlough policy and avoid the disciplining of pilots who refuse to work overtime," he said.



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