Monday, July 13, 2015

Teamsters file lawsuit against Republic Airways over pilot pay

The Teamsters union representing pilots at Republic Airways has filed suit against the carrier in federal court in Indianapolis, accusing it of illegally changing work rules and pay while the sides bargain on a new contract.

The lawsuit is unusual as it essentially accuses Republic of paying pilots too much money. The complaint by the Teamsters Local 357 has two main issues. First, it accuses Republic of unilaterally implementing “higher pay rates for additional flying by pilots.” Second, it says Republic is illegally paying signing bonuses to new-hire pilots “to subsidize their wages above the pay rates prescribed by the current collective bargaining agreement.” The union says it fears the increased pay “undercuts the pilots’ bargaining position.”

The legal tactic is similar to one the International Brotherhood of Teamsters has been using on behalf of Allegiant Air pilots. It relies on the status quo rule of labor law, which suggests an employer cannot unilaterally change work rules or pay rates for a group of workers that is already represented by a labor union.

This approach has not worked with Allegiant, in part because pilots there only recently formed a union and have no existing collective bargaining agreement. But it could be more effective in court with Republic, despite the unusual allegations in the complaint, as the Teamsters have a long history of representing Republic pilots.

The two sides have been negotiating on a new agreement since April 2007. They reached a tentative agreement last year, but pilots rejected it in April 2014.

The new pay problems began March 2014, according to the union. The Teamsters say Republic violated the collective bargaining agreement when it started offering higher open-trip pay rates for Bombardier Q400 pilots based in Kansas City and Denver. Then, in March of this year, the company started giving new hire bonuses of $7,500-$12,500. The union was not notified in advance.

“The Defendants adopted this wage supplement to address their inability to hire enough pilots to staff their flight operations efficiently due to the grossly inadequate rates of pay, rules and working conditions under their current pilot contract,” the union said in the complaint.

Also starting in March, the union says, Republic offered extra pay for any pilot working on an off-day, not just those on the Q400s. Captains now earn $30 more per hour than typical rates for flying open trips, while first officers receive an extra $15.

A spokesman for Republic declined to comment on the litigation.

(Brian Sumers - ATWOnline News)

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