Uh-Oh... Leaders Prepare Pilots for Work Stoppage
After Mesaba Airlines
management publicly indicated that a strike deadline would likely
be necessary to pressure contract talks into closure, Mesaba
Airlines pilots opened a strike operations center today in
Minneapolis. A strike would impact 600 daily departures for
"Mesaba pilots want a contract, not a strike. However, we are
prepared to strike to attain the contract goals of this pilot
group," said Kris Pierson, pilot spokesman for the Mesaba unit of
the Air Line Pilots Association, International (ALPA). In October,
the pilots overwhelmingly (98%) voted to authorize a strike should
union leaders call for a work stoppage.
Last week, management at the Northwest Airlink partner requested
a release from federally mediated talks if no meaningful progress
was made this week in negotiations. The union and management
negotiators will meet for three days in Minneapolis to try and
Management's request is similar to the plea ALPA made to
National Mediation Board officials in August to be released from
mediation. The release would result in a 30-day cooling off period
before pilots could strike. The board has not yet made a formal
response to either request.
"Almost 900 days have
elapsed since we began negotiations and we are, and have been, at
an impasse," said Captain Tom Wychor, Chairman of the Mesaba ALPA
Unit. "One half of our pilot group earns less than $35,000 a year,
with starting salaries less than $17,000. This is
far less than pilots at other regional airlines who have less
experience and seniority."
Negotiations began in June 2001 and the pilot contract became
amendable in June 2002. It was negotiated in 1996 and was extended
for two years by concessionary amendments that allowed Mesaba to
grow. Remaining open issues include job security, compensation,
retirement, and work rules.
Mesaba Airlines operates as a Northwest Jet Airlink and
Northwest Airlink partner for Northwest Airlines. Mesaba serves 114
cities in 30 states and Canada from Northwest's three major hubs:
Detroit, Minneapolis/St. Paul and Memphis. Mesaba employs 844
professional airline pilots who operate an advanced fleet of 103
regional jet and jet-prop aircraft.
Founded in 1931, ALPA is the world's largest pilot union
representing 66,000 pilots at 42 airlines in the U.S. and