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Sat, Oct 28, 2023

ATI Pilots To Call for Strike Authorization Vote

Turn of a Critical Card

Air Transport International (ATI) pilots, as represented by the Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l (ALPA), announced on 27 October 2023 that they will hold a strike authorization vote on Monday, 30 October.

ATI ALPA Master Executive Council (MEC) chair Captain Mike Sterling stated: “The decision to call for a strike authorization vote is the result of years at the bargaining table and months of federally-mediated negotiations with no meaningful movement by the company on big-ticket items, including compensation and retirement. Our pilots cannot continue to operate under an outdated contract, making less than they did last year in increasingly worsening conditions.”

ATI has faced alarming pilot attrition over the last two-years—during which pilots at competing air-carriers have negotiated significant contractual gains in pay and quality of life. Since January 2022, more than 56-percent of the ATI pilot cadre has left the airline. Year-to-date, 191 pilots have vamoosed. With just over 600 pilots on the seniority list, the antecedent number represents a staggering thirty percent of the airline’s pilots.

Captain Sterling warned: “Every day without an industry-standard contract, more ATI pilots are choosing to leave for airlines that recognize the value of professional pilots with competitive contracts and better quality of life. Those of us here today are fighting for the change that will make our airline a career destination for pilots once again.”

For nearly three-and-a-half-years, pilots in the service of Wilmington, Ohio-based Air Transport International (ATI) have been mired in unproductive negotiations with the air-carrier’s management.

In March 2023—compelled by a protracted stalemate occasioned by management’s obstinance vis-à-vis big-ticket issues the likes of compensation and retirement packages—both parties filed for mediation with the U.S. National Mediation Board (NMB).

The final NMB session of 2023, which convened in Baltimore, Maryland and spanned 24 through 26 October, failed to yield an agreement.

On 19 October, Captain Sterling stated: “Just over a month ago, ATI pilot leaders sent a strong message to management that we are ready and willing to take a strike vote should it be a necessary step in achieving the contract we deserve. It’s now on company negotiators to show up and deliver us a contract that meets the needs of our pilots, or we will deliver them a strike-authorization vote.”

The authorizing of a strike is the first in a long and complex succession of prerequisites that must be met prior to ATI pilots walking off the job. By making such an authorization in the weeks prior to the onset of the frantic and profitable winter holiday shopping/delivery season, ATI pilots and ALPA jointly exert considerable pressure on ATI’s management to assume a more cooperative tenor at the negotiation table.

A strike authorization vote doesn’t guarantee a labor stoppage. Rather, it demonstrates the collective resolve of ATI pilots to strike at the union’s directive to do so. The threat of a strike—and the compounding tragedies of lost revenue, public acrimony, and customer desertion occasioned thereby—is intended to speed up contract talks stretched almost beyond belief into their third year.

The Railway Labor Act, to which the airline industry is beholden, does not allow pilots and other workers deemed essential to national transportation infrastructure to walk off their jobs until federal regulators—called in at the 11th hour to exacerbate animosities—confirm that the two opposing sides of a labor dispute have arrived at an impasse likely to be months or even years in the resolution. Should either side decline arbitration, both parties enter a thirty-day cooling off period, after which the parties may engage in self-help—which is to say the union may call a strike or the management may undertake a workplace lockout.

FMI: www.alpa.org

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