Friday, January 27, 2017

Horizon pilots file suit against management, claim RLA violation

Pilots for Seattle-based Horizon Air—the regional subsidiary of Alaska Airlines—filed a lawsuit Jan. 27 claiming Horizon executives “broke faith with the negotiation process and began making unilateral changes to compensation,” violating the terms of the Railway Labor Act (RLA). The suit also claims violation of the terms of the labor agreement between Horizon’s 675 pilots and Horizon management.

The RLA is a 1926 federal law that governs labor relations in the airline industry.

Horizon Air’s pilots are represented by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT).

According to an IBT statement, “from last summer through December, the pilots at Horizon had been negotiating with Horizon executives to alter compensation and resolve a severe staffing shortage.” The IBT said the pay rate for Horizon pilots is “second to last … among 16 regional airlines similar in size,” and the airline is “unable to hire and retain enough pilots to fly the company’s fleet of airplanes.”

IBT said the airline canceled 720 flights in December 2016 as a result of pilot shortages, forcing Alaska Airlines to fly the routes on larger aircraft “adding a significant additional expense for Alaska Air and putting a strain on its staff and regularly scheduled flights.”

Horizon pilots have indicated they are prepared to strike “if executives continue to put the financial stability of Horizon and Alaska at risk and violate the contract agreement.”

The IBT derided signing bonuses Horizon Air is offering new pilot recruits, saying the move does not address retention issues affecting experienced Horizon pilots.

“Short-sighted maneuvers won’t solve the staffing problem,” Teamsters Local 1224 executive council chair and Horizon pilot Capt. Jeff Cox said. “The only way we can continue serving our … customers in the months and years ahead is [for Horizon] to offer industry-standard pay and benefits so we can recruit and retain skilled pilots. We also need a career path that allows Horizon pilots to grow in the … Alaska family.”

Horizon’s pilots are willing to negotiate, Cox said.

In a statement made available to ATW, the airline said: “Horizon Air takes pride in the partnership with our workgroups and unions, which is built on longstanding mutual respect. After months of negotiations with the pilot union, Horizon Air will continue to work toward a solution that is attractive to new pilots, while respecting the contributions of existing pilots and the competitive regional airline marketplace. We do not anticipate any disruption in service.”

The suit was filed Jan. 27 in the US District Court of the Western District of Washington state.

(Mark Nensel - ATWOnline News)

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