Everyone Ready For US Airways/America West, Part Deux?
Anyone who thought it would be easy
to merge the pilot ranks of Northwest Airlines and Delta Air Lines,
should those carriers receive formal approval to join forces... you
may want to go back and reread the last three years' worth of
stories about US Airways. A similar problem is developing for
pilots at Northwest, who have voiced their opposition for the
deal... going against management at both airlines, as well as
their own union.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports Northwest pilots have
butted heads with the president of the Air Line Pilots Association
International, which represents pilots on both sides of the
proposed merger. The head of the Northwest faction urged ALPA
President John Prater not to sign the Delta labor agreement,
negotiated with management at that carrier ahead of the April 14
As ANN reported, that deal --
meant to garner support from Delta pilots for the merger --
includes annual pay raises and an equity stake in the merged
carrier for Delta pilots. Pilots at Northwest were left out of the
talks, after negotiations between both sides failed to produce a
common agreement ahead of the merger.
"Northwest pilots were kind of left standing on the side," said
airline consultant Terry Trippler, who is based near Northwest's
hometown of Minneapolis. "What they're trying to say is, 'Don't
sign that contract, let's try to renegotiate one that includes all
Despite Northwest pilots' pleas,
however, Prater reportedly signed off on the merger plan May 30...
setting off what could be a protracted, heated labor
If that sounds familiar, that's because a similar set of
contentious circumstances are now playing out -- to little apparent
effect, at least not yet -- at US Airways.
Pilots at the former US Air voted out ALPA
earlier this year, saying the union failed to consider
their needs in negotiating pay terms... while showing favoritism to
their counterparts at America West, the dominant carrier from that
September 2005 merger. A federal arbitrator presented a seniority
formula in June 2007 that bases pilot ratings on aircraft type,
with pilots ranked by seniority within each group based on their
time at their respective airline -- a formula that favored the
predominantly younger pilot workforce at America West.
Despite that ominous precedent, however, ALPA states "we have
every reason to believe [a joint agreement] can be accomplished" at
Delta/NWA. But labor relations expert Gary Chaison says that stance
amounts to whistling in the dark.
"You have a situation where different locals of the same union
are vying with each other," said Chaison, a professor Clark
University in Worcester, MA. "You have Northwest pilots believing
they're at a disadvantageous position relative to the other
"There's only one way to describe it, and that's a mess,"
Chaison said of the situation at US Airways. "It does indicate that
even the best merger plans don't work out because of the rivalry
between unions and the rivalry within unions."