Delta Pilots Now Think Wage Settlement Possible
Sounding a conspicuously
conciliatory note, the chief of ALPA's Delta pilots' says he thinks
the union and the airline can cut a deal. But Duane Woerth is a
"It's hard to close a deal until you see what you are talking
about," Woerth was quoted in media reports as saying.
But at the same time, another union official, Capt. John J.
Malone, sounded a defiant note in an op-ed piece appearing in
Tuesday's edition of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
"Unlike corporate executives who have taken their 'retention'
packages and moved on, the pilots are tied to this company," Malone
The Delta ALPA unit has a public relations situation on its
hands. The airline is clearly in financial hot water while the
pilots continue to receive salaries that are 50-percent bigger than
the industry norm. While, at first, the two messages from Woerth
and Malone appear contradictory, they could actually be
Delta pilots signed a hefty contract just months before the 9/11
attacks socked in the industry like a 0/0 blanket of fog. Since
then, two airlines have gone bankrupt and pilots at most major
carriers have joined other union members in making deep salary and
benefit concessions, hoping to help keep their airlines afloat.
Delta hasn't filed for bankruptcy. But analysts are quick to follow
that line with a single word: "yet."
Delta wants the pilots to agree on a
30-percent pay cut. So far, the pilots have reportedly been willing
to offer a mere 9.5 percent reduction over a year's time and forego
raises set for next month.
But Malone wrote in his opinion piece, the union -- far from
being a Scrooge -- has been quite conciliatory toward the airline.
"Since Sept. 11, 2001, pilots have agreed to amend our contract
many times to help Delta save money and compete. By waiving a
portion of our contract, we allowed Delta to enter into a
revenue-generating domestic code-share arrangement with Northwest
and Continental. Another waiver permitted Delta to operate Song, an
'airline within an airline' (Song). Thousands of US troops were
flown to war by Delta pilots after we amended our contract to make
it easier for Delta to do this."
Malone continued, "All of these concessions pale in comparison
to the bailout package the pilots have been offering for almost a
year. Our continual efforts to help over this period have been met
with "all or nothing" demands from management. Regardless, we will
continue to try to do our part to help the company."
As if delivering the second part of a one-two public relations
punch, National ALPA Delta President Woerth told the Dow Jones news
service the airline's poor planning has held up an agreement on
pilot contract concessions. Pointing to Delta's costly failure to
hedge against rampant fuel price increases, Woerth said pinning
down a deal with the airline is "very difficult. We're just about
to get a deal, and someone says, 'Excuse me, we forgot to
Malone delivered the union's answer
to intimations its members are being hard-hearted by writing,
"Labor is just one part of the recovery equation. The pilots' union
has offered hundreds of millions of dollars even though Delta has
shown no evidence of a business plan that will enable it to compete
effectively within the airline industry. Even those network
carriers that have obtained worker concessions have yet to become
"An effective strategy," he wrote, "must also include the
elements that historically have set Delta apart from its
competition, such as customer service and employee morale."
Woerth said he's confident the union and the airlines can hammer
out a new contract to avoid a Delta bankruptcy. But he indicated
such a deal might not be reachable before Labor Day.