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Wed, Feb 01, 2006

Lockout? Teamsters Accuse World Airways Of Stranding Crews

Teamsters: Company Strands Pilots in Angola, Refuses to Bargain in Good Faith

The Teamsters tell ANN that World Airways Inc. locked out pilots operating its commercial flights on Monday. The alleged action in violation of the current collective bargaining agreement idles a large percentage of its pilots and stranded several crews around the globe.

In addition to idling or reducing the workload of a large percentage of its pilots -- members of Teamsters Local 986 in El Monte, California -- the company's lockout reportedly stranded four pilots in Luanda, Angola. The pilots were told by a World Airways flight operations manager that they were suspended and were "on their own" in reference to where they were to stay and how they were to get home, said Captain Luis Carmona, Executive Council Chairman of the World Airways pilots' union.

"Locking out pilots is bad enough," said Captain Mark Ohlau, World Airways Pilots Executive Council Member and Negotiating Committee Chairman.

"But stranding four of us in a potentially hostile environment is indefensible."

When in Luanda, World Airways crews are protected around the clock by armed security personnel. This protection was terminated when the pilots were forced to vacate their hotel rooms and seek their own way back to the United States. The pilots' strike committee made arrangements for their fellow workers' safe return home.

"We've bargained in good faith for more than two years," said Carmona.

"But by coming to the table unwilling and unprepared to achieve a successful outcome to these negotiations, the company has again ignored issues that matter to its pilots -- job security, insurance benefits, retirement and adequate compensation, not negated by increased benefit costs.

The parties had been negotiating a new contract since June 2003, when the pilots' current collective bargaining agreement became amendable. The company caused a system wide lockout after an extremely limited number of their flights were affected by a minor strike initiated by the pilots early Sunday morning exercising their rights under the Railway Labor Act.

Acording to World Airways, “The company offered our pilots two compensation options,” said Charlie McDonald, World Airways chief operating officer.

“The first provided a 10 percent signing bonus and a pay increase of 3 percent in the first year and 4 percent annually for each of the next two years. The other option offered a 7 percent signing bonus and a 5 percent pay increase in the first year, followed by 3 percent annual increases for each of the next two years. Given the circumstances in the airline industry today, we believe we provided an attractive, comprehensive offer that addressed the major concerns expressed by the pilots during negotiations.”

Other provisions in the contract offer included:

  • A commitment to add Boeing 747s to the World Airways fleet
  • Qualified furlough protection for 90 percent of current pilots for the duration of the contract
  • Preferential hiring at other World Air Holdings subsidiaries
  • The addition of training pay
  • Doubling guaranteed days off to 12 per month, coupled with a new volunteer system for additional flying
  • Doubling basic life insurance
  • Continued profit sharing
  • Increasing the company contribution to retirement plans

The company did ask for increased contributions to its medical plan based on dramatic cost increases in recent years.

World Airways is the largest commercial carrier of US military personnel and provide cargo transport services for a variety of freight companies. The pilots, who became Teamsters in 1967, are among approximately 40,000 members of the Teamsters Airline Division.

FMI: www.teamster.org, www.worldairways.com

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