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Mon, May 10, 2010

Will Spirit Strike? Pilots Decline Arbitration

30-Day Cooling Off Period Begins

Spirit Airlines pilots have triggered the start of a 30-day cooling-off period—which could result in a strike in the near future if no agreement is reached—by rejecting the National Mediation Board’s (NMB) proffer of arbitration on Wednesday, May 5. The union now awaits the NMB’s notification of the day on which the 30-day clock starts and the date for a possible strike.

“The pilots of Spirit Airlines enter this end-game of contract negotiations with the support of nearly 53,000 union sisters and brothers.”

“As pilots, we would rather be in the air than on the picket line. We want a fair contract—not a strike,” said Captain Sean Creed, head of the Spirit unit of ALPA. “However, this company has shown time and time again that it doesn’t feel the need to bargain with us in good faith. We hope that the added pressure of a strike deadline will help management realize that a fair and equitable contract is in everyone’s best interest.”

Spirit pilots have been in contract negotiations for more than three years, with little or no progress made during this time. In April 2009, 98 percent of the pilots voted to give their leadership the power to call a lawful strike should negotiations continue to stall. During contract talks, the company repeatedly demanded unwarranted concessions, requesting that the pilots take substantial cuts in benefits and work rule protection. Yet, Spirit Airlines continues to expand its operations and make substantial profits.

On April 6 and 7, the National Mediation Board (NMB) met with pilot leaders and management representatives in a last-ditch effort to work out an agreement. However, by the end of the negotiating sessions, it was obvious the two sides had reached an impasse, and further meetings would not result in a contract.

“The pilots of Spirit Airlines enter this end-game of contract negotiations with the support of nearly 53,000 union sisters and brothers,” said Capt. John Prater, president of ALPA. “In addition, our full financial and staff resources will be available to them until they achieve a new collective bargaining agreement.”

In accordance with the Railway Labor Act, which governs labor relations within the airline and railroad industries, the NMB issued a proffer of binding arbitration on Monday, May 3. The pilots rejected the proffer two days later to bring about a final deadline in hopes of producing an agreement. Once either party rejects the proffer, the NMB notifies the parties of the start of the 30-day cooling-off period, after which the pilots are able to lawfully go on strike.

“We continue to be available to negotiate a contract with the company at any time,” said Capt. Creed. “But should the cooling-off period end without a fair agreement, make no mistake, this pilot group will strike.”

FMI: www.alpa.org

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