Pilots to picket Republic Airways annual meeting


June 02--Pilots who sit in the command seats of Republic Airways planes will instead walk picket lines outside the Indianapolis-based company's annual meeting today.

Members of Teamsters Union Local 357, which represents some of the pilots, plan informational picketing outside the shareholders' meeting for Republic Airways Holdings scheduled at the Holiday Inn at the Pyramids on the Northwest side.

They do not represent the pilots of Frontier Airlines, the scheduled service carrier owned by Republic Holdings. But they do represent some of the pilots in Republic's fleet of regional carriers and the union is trying to make shareholders aware that many experienced pilots, making critical flight decisions every day, are stuck at entry-level pay.

"We have five-year first officers still making $30,000 a year," said Capt. Pat Gannon, a Republic Airways pilot and chairman of the union's executive council.

Pay scales date to a contract negotiated in 2003. At that time, pilots were willing to work a few years for a small, regional carrier in hopes of moving up to big pay checks with a larger airline.

Since then, the airline industry has seen merger after merger and there are fewer of the large air carriers still in business. The airlines that have survived the recession have reduced the number of flights and trimmed costs.

"Without that stepping stone to move on to the larger airlines, a lot of us got stuck," he said.

The union claims that the contract with Republic has been amendable since 2007 however the company has declined to negotiate so talks are underway with the help of a federal mediator.

Republic Airways Holdings also has changed significantly since the 2003 labor agreement.

The company, which currently flies more than 1,500 flights a day, acquired Midwest and Frontier airlines and merged them a year ago under the Frontier name. The company also flies Chautauqua, Republic and Shuttle America airlines under the logos of Delta and United airlines.