According to the announcement from the Southwest Airlines Pilots’ Association, this will be mark their “first-ever informational picket” at the city-owned airport.
This has been a long time in the making. Back in May the SWAPA announced that it was ramping up a so-called “Strike Preparedness Committee,” as negotiations with the Dallas-based carrier dragged on since 2012.
Said Captain Paul Jackson — who, at the time, was the union’s president — “while a strike is certainly not in either side’s best interest, the Railway Labor Act clearly defines the procedure for protracted negotiations which can lead to a lock out by management or a suspension of service by our pilots.”
In a media release that went out Wednesday, the union said that “after nearly four years in negotiations toward a new contract, SWAPA has decided to demonstrate their collective displeasure to management, the flying public, and Southwest shareholders.
Four years, particularly during a time of record profits, is far too long for a company known for its ‘LUV’ to not provide a worthy contract offer to its operational front line leaders — the pilots.”
It’s a bold move for pilots to picket at Love. But March is the four-year anniversary since negotiations began, and the pilots say they’ve waited long enough — especially after American Airlines and United Airlines pilots have approved contracts.
“Shared sacrifice and shared success have been historical tenets of Southwest,” says SWAPA’s recently re-elected president, Captain Jon Weaks. “We are approaching four years of negotiations and we have sacrificed much during this period to contribute to the company’s record-breaking financial success.
We are long past overdue for our company to share that success with the hard-working professional pilots of SWAPA. After nearly four years of protracted negotiations, SWAPA has decided that it is time to publicly demonstrate our collective dissatisfaction and unified resolve to management, the flying public, and Southwest shareholders.”
“During four years of protracted negotiations, we have sacrificed much to contribute to the company’s success,” Weaks said in a statement last week. “We are long past overdue for our company to share that success with the hard-working pilots on whose backs the airline continues to soar.”
The union and airline are scheduled to meet — separately — with federal mediators on Feb. 2.
According to Bloomberg news earlier this month, the carrier’s senior vice president of air operations said via a spokeswoman that the company is “hopeful” of reaching an agreement with pilots this year.
Southwest said late Wednesday it’s “eager to resume negotiations so that we can reward our pilots for their service and professionalism.”
In a statement sent to The Dallas Morning News Southwest spokesman Brad Hawkins, the carrier added, “While our pilots are free to conduct informational picketing, our steadfast commitment to and 45-year history of serving our employees and customers continues as strong as ever.
The company’s negotiators and leadership are focused on resuming negotiations to reach an agreement that meets the collective needs of our people, our company and our common future.”
(Robert Wilonsky - The Dallas Morning News)