Cargo Airline Amerijet Vows To Keep Flying Despite Teamster
Amerijet International is vowing to
continue flight operations despite the "unsuccessful" result of
negotiations with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT).
The quest for a new collective bargaining agreement covering its
flight crewmembers has been unfulfilled for the better part of five
years and as a result, the IBT has elected to call a strike at
Amerijet and IBT 'remain at a standstill... with both parties at
an impasse on the central issues.'
"We are disappointed that IBT's inability to reach a fair
agreement has resulted in their decision to strike," said Pamela
Rollins, SVP Business Development "the demands were simply not
justified in any respect, particularly given the current
competitive and economic environment."
"While we regret IBT's decision to strike, we have prepared for
this contingency," said Rollins. Amerijet has continued to operate
its published flight schedule and has experienced no interruption
of service to its customers.
The IBT, however, see the matter in a wholly different light. It
claims that 'the crewmembers of the Ft. Lauderdale-based all-cargo
airline have been attempting to negotiate for a first contract
since early in 2004. Over 5-1/2 years, they have faced
management-based attempts to decertify the union, unilateral wage
and benefit cuts and increased pressure to remove the legally
elected union from the property.'
IBT adds that Amerijet management's 'refusal to bargain in good
faith' resulted in the appointment of a federal mediator by the
National Mediation Board (NMB) two years ago. Amerijet's continued
bad faith bargaining led to the imposition of a 30-day cooling-off
period by the NMB, the expiration of which allows either party to
engage in self-help activities if an agreement is not reached. The
30-day cooling off period expired Thursday morning at 12:01.
"The NMB very rarely imposes cooling-off periods and mediation
"releases" enabling labor unions to engage in self-help
activities," said Teamster spokeswoman Daisy Gonzalez. "The NMB's
decision to impose such a cooling-off period and release reflects
Amerijet's complete bad faith conduct throughout this 5-1/2 year
ordeal. Over the last several days, the NMB, along with the union,
continued to urge management to respond in good faith and come to
an agreement. Late last night, Amerijet management broke off
further negotiations and walked out of the NMB-sponsored contract
"The key hang-up in the contract talks involved Amerijet's
insistence on a five-year contract without any raise in the last 20
months of the contract's term. The company also refused the union's
demand to restore severe wage and benefit cuts that the company
imposed earlier this year, during a previous NMB-directed
negotiating meeting in Washington, D.C.," Gonzalez said.
"In addition to operating the 'Zero G' aircraft that charges
passengers $5,000 for a weightless flight experience, Amerijet
pilots and flight engineers also fly Boeing 727 jets. They operate
an air cargo link to many Caribbean islands and nations, carrying
vital goods to individuals and companies who rely on this air
bridge for critical air service in the region to and from the
United States," said Gonzalez.
"Prior to suffering a unilateral 10 percent wage cut imposed in
March 2009, the Amerijet pilots and flight engineers had been
working at the same pay rate since 1999. It is a pay rate that is
not only at or below the poverty level, it is almost identical to
the pay of the regional pilots who were killed in the crash of
Colgan Air 3407 in Buffalo this year.
"The average Amerijet first officer's pay was $36,000 a year
before the 10 percent cut earlier this year," said Gonzalez.
Gonzalez also said that Amerijet does not provide basic sanitary
facilities on the airplanes and does not provide food and water to
their pilots and flight engineers flying long, hot and exhausting
duty days throughout the Caribbean and South America.
"Amerijet's refusal to provide for even basic physiological
needs and their insistence that even further pay penalties be
imposed on the pilots and flight engineers if they call in sick for
a flight is a testament to the mindset that has created the
problems facing the airline industry and the need for change,"
Federal aviation regulations specifically prohibit crewmembers
from flying while sick, a factor that has been cited as a potential
contributing factor in the Buffalo crash that killed fifty seven
people earlier this year.
The Teamsters proposed a four-year contract with a reinstatement
of the arbitrary 10 percent wage cut imposed earlier this year by
the company in its continued effort to force the crewmembers to
dump the union. The Teamsters also imposed a $250 lump sum payment
on signing of a contract and a 3 percent pay raise for the three
Amerijet's final offer was a five-year demand with no raise in
the final 20 months of the contract; along with the further
imposition of a five-hour-per-day pay cut for any crewmember who
called in sick for a trip.
"In the end, the losers here are not
just the customers, but the countries of the Caribbean that count
on critical and timely air cargo service as well," said Gonzalez.
"Time-critical shipments will be lost due to the refusal of an
airline management that puts their personal gain ahead of their
customers. We have received commitments from other air cargo
carrier pilot groups and other transport-related unions to honor
the Amerijet pilots' and flight engineers' picket lines.
The Airline Division of the International Brotherhood of
Teamsters, Local 769, represents the flight deck crewmembers
employed by Amerijet International, a cargo airline that operates
primarily to and from the Miami International Airport and the
Caribbean Islands and South America. Teamsters Local 769 represents
over 8,000 employees and families throughout South Florida.
According to U.S. Department of Transportation data, Amerijet
had negative net income of $1.3 million in 2007, but earned
$402,000 in 2008, largely due to a smaller loss in the third
quarter and increased earnings in the fourth. The company took in
$152.6 million in operating revenue in 2008.
Amerijet recently acquired SRX Transcontinental, a company that
manages ground handling services in Central Asia and owns a
Uzbekistan-based cargo airline, as well as a controlling share in
Nation's Express, an express truck charter company based in
As of the fourth quarter of 2008, Amerijet employed a total of
560 people in its air cargo business, including 58 pilots.