Just two days after American Airlines’ chief executive said he would offer pilots a contract with 40% raises, the union’s board of directors voted to start preparing to strike.
The Allied Pilots Association leadership, which has been in negotiations for over three years and is meeting this week in Washington, D.C., unanimously voted to establish a strike center and conduct a strike authorization vote to end April 30.
The strike threat from the Allied Pilots Association is a move meant to speed up negotiations after rival Delta’s new pilot contract raised wages among pilots there by 40% over four years and set a standard for salaries across the industry. Although complex federal labor laws wouldn’t allow pilots to walk off the job unless federal labor regulators agree that the two sides are at an impasse — which would likely be months or years away.
“While our negotiating committee reports good progress, we remain steadfast and focused that now is the time to reach an agreement with American Airlines,” a statement from the APA read. “Management must understand that they need to demonstrate the same level of commitment to bargaining that other airline management teams have shown in recent months. APA must also ensure it utilizes all its legal processes for contract resolution and improvement.”
Sarah Jantz, American Airlines spokeswoman said the carrier looks forward to reaching an agreement with APA quickly.
“We believe a deal is within reach and can be negotiated expeditiously,” Jantz said in an email.
In a video shared with American Airlines pilots on Tuesday, CEO Robert Isom told pilots American “is prepared to match” rival Delta’s new pilot contract by raising pay a cumulative 40% over four years and improving profit sharing.
“That’s because our commitment — my commitment — remains unchanged: Our team members— including our pilots — will be paid well and they will be paid competitively,” Isom said in the video. “Let me be clear. American is prepared to match Delta pay rates and provide American’s pilots with the same profit-sharing formula as Delta’s pilots.”
In addition to pay raises, American pilots are also pushing for scheduling improvements because they say delays and cancellations are cutting into personal and family time for members.
The statement said APA remains “cautiously optimistic of management’s commitments and presence at the table,” reaffirming its commitment to reach an agreement with the Fort Worth carrier.
Pilots at Southwest Airlines and United Airlines also are in contract talks. Leaders at all four major airlines have said over the years they watch discussions at other companies closely, and often pledge to match offers.
In January, Southwest Airlines pilots made a similar move, calling for a strike authorization vote in May in the wake of the Dallas-based carrier’s epic holiday meltdown. The Southwest Airlines Pilot Association represents more than 10,000 pilots, who will begin voting May 1 on authorizing a strike.
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