Atlas Air wins arbitration ruling in pilot dispute

posted on 28th August 2019 by Justin Burns
Atlas Air wins arbitration ruling in pilot dispute

Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings has said that its subsidiary Atlas Air has prevailed in an arbitration between the company and the union that represents its pilots, the Airline Professionals Association, Teamsters Local 1224.

Atlas said the 26 August 2019 arbitration ruling affirms the merger provisions of the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) in connection with Atlas Air’s acquisition of Southern Air in April 2016.

In response, the Airline Professionals Association, Teamsters Local 1224, said in a statement that it will “pursue all remaining legal options” to avoid a contract resolved by an arbitrator.

Atlas said the arbitration further affirms the company’s long-standing position that the union has been “in violation” of the existing CBA by refusing to follow the merger provisions for a new joint collective bargaining agreement (JCBA), and by failing to present an integrated pilot seniority list to the company.

In a separate, but related, proceeding, Atlas said the union was also found to be in violation of the Southern Air CBA for refusing to follow the merger provisions for this JCBA on behalf of the Southern Air pilots.

“It is time for our hardworking crew of over 2,000 Atlas Air and Southern Air pilots to receive a new, competitive contract with enhanced pay and benefits.  This has been our goal since we announced the Atlas-Southern merger in early 2016.

“The recent decisions by the arbitrators have made clear that the existing collective bargaining agreements provide the appropriate path for the merger and should have been followed,” said William J. Flynn, chairman and CEO, Atlas Air Worldwide.

Atlas said the arbitrators in both cases ordered the union to proceed with contractually required negotiations for a new JCBA in connection with the merger. The union is required to submit an integrated seniority list of Atlas Air and Southern Air pilots to the company within 45 days, followed by a period of bargaining, after which any unresolved issues would be submitted to timely, interest-based arbitration.

“Now, with these decisions behind us, the path forward is clear and we are positioned for real progress,” said Flynn. “In order to advance negotiations and provide our pilots with the new contract they deserve, the Union has important responsibilities as part of this process.”

“Specifically, the Union has an obligation to promptly provide us with an integrated seniority list as ordered by the arbitrators. Additionally, despite our repeated requests, the Union has yet to provide us with a comprehensive economic proposal covering pay and benefits for evaluation. These steps are essential for us to move forward in a timely way for the benefit of our pilots.

“We value the dedication of our crews, and we look forward to recognizing their significant contributions to the development and growth of our business. Together with the Union, we have a responsibility to create an environment for our pilots to achieve their fullest potential.”

Captain Robert Kirchner, a recently retired Atlas Air pilot, and executive council chairman for Atlas Air pilots of Teamsters Local 1224 said Atlas Air executives “will claim the amalgamation ruling as a victory”, but this is a company in “complete turmoil”, and this ruling “will do nothing to restore shareholder confidence or more importantly, pilot morale”.

He added: “Atlas Air has waged a vicious legal battle with its pilots for more than three years and squandered opportunities of reaching a reasonable agreement through direct, good-faith negotiations.

“Teamsters Local 1224 will pursue all remaining legal options to avoid a contract that is resolved by an arbitrator and that robs pilots of their right to vote on it and ratify as needed.

“The company’s executives have lost the confidence of those who keep the operation running, including investors and pilots. For instance, investors just saw AAWW’s stock price plummet more than fifty percent in the last month alone.

“Meanwhile, pilots have witnessed a short-sighted litigation war that’s caused their faith in management to deteriorate completely. The company must do right by all invested parties — current pilots, future pilots, investors — and settle a fair, industry-standard contract now.”