Pilot group pullout halts US Airways talks

US Airways Group Inc.'s talks with its pilots for a single contract have been halted by the withdrawal of one of two labor groups involved.

The so-called East pilots, who flew for the old US Airways, said they won't resume bargaining until the Tempe, Ariz.-based company meets their pay demands. US Airways and America West Holdings Corp. merged in September 2005, while their Air Line Pilots Association units stayed separate.

"We are not interested in engaging in contract negotiations with either the East or West pilots without the other group present," CEO Doug Parker said in an Aug. 16 letter to the carrier's 4,403 pilots. "Doing so would only continue to drive a wedge between the two groups."

A spokesman for the East pilots didn't immediately return a call seeking comment. The East pilots want their pay increased to that of former America West pilots, retroactive pay and an 8 percent "fair interest charge" on future agreements.

US Airways and the union groups met for negotiations last week. The status of planned September talks is "up in the air," airline spokeswoman Andrea Rader said Monday. About 2,618 pilots are represented by the East side, and 1,785 by the West.

"That one side wants to pull out of joint negotiations is a huge disappointment not only to their pilots, but ours as well," said Tania Bziukiewicz, a spokeswoman for the West pilots. "It does nobody any good."

US Airways is trying to shift all its labor groups to unified accords, although it can keep flying with separate pilot contracts. The airline in May offered to move all its pilots to the higher America West pay scale and add a 3 percent increase.

The proposal would mean raises of 3 percent to 17 percent for the East pilots, plus the 3 percent offered for all pilots. US Airways estimated the cost at $122 million a year.

Bziukiewicz said the East pilots' proposal would lift their pay above that of West pilots, not create parity between the two.

The East pilots in June filed suit to block an arbitrator's ruling on integrating the seniority lists from both airlines. Seniority is vital to pilots because it determines pay, schedules and the type of aircraft they can fly.