Saturday, December 2, 2017

US court orders Atlas Air Worldwide pilots to halt work slowdown

A US federal court has granted Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings’ request for a preliminary injunction against its pilots. The Purchase, New York-based cargo operator had accused the pilots of its Atlas Air, Polar Air and Southern Air subsidiaries of an intentional work slowdown amidst ongoing contract negotiations.

In the court ruling, federal judge Randolph Moss of Washington DC ordered the pilots represented by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) to cease “encouraging, permitting, calling, engaging in, or continuing any strike, work stoppage, sick out, concerted refusal to volunteer for or to accept work assignments (including, without limitation, open time flights), [or] slowdown.”

Further, the ruling said the injunction will remain in effect until the expiration of the 30-day “cooling-off” period following termination of contract mediation talks by the National Mediation Board, if the situation comes to that.

Daniel Wells, the president of the local IBT chapter in Purchase representing Atlas pilots, said the union disagreed with the judge’s decision and will appeal it swiftly.

Atlas said the court’s decision requires the IBT “to meets its obligations under the Railway Labor Act and stop its illegal and intentional work slowdown.” In the company’s third-quarter financial results conference call, Atlas president and CEO Bill Flynn said Atlas Air and Polar Air had seen a significant increase in sick and fatigue calls by pilots near the time of departure. The company posted a $24.2 million net loss for the third quarter.

IBT Atlas executive council chairman Robert Kirchner responded at the time by saying the company had grown too fast and could not keep pace in terms of pilot hiring. Inadequate pilot pay has also been a factor, Kirchner indicated, causing many pilots to depart the company. IBT said 216 pilots have left Atlas Air since the start of 2017, a 65% surge compared to all of 2016. Additionally, IBT has argued there are legitimate fatigue and health issues among Atlas pilots as the company’s operations are allegedly stretched to, among other growth initiatives, meet commitments to fly 20 Boeing 767-300 freighters for e-commerce giant Amazon by the end of 2018.

Flynn has rejected the notion that Atlas does not have enough pilots.

“[Atlas] pilots remain dedicated to shining a light on the serious staffing and operational challenges at the Atlas Air Worldwide airlines,” IBT’s Wells said. “After years of chronic mismanagement and intensifying pilot shortages, the fundamentals of our operation are crumbling every day, putting the success of our carriers and commitments to customers like DHL and Amazon at risk.”

Wells said the pilots will comply with the judge’s orders, “but it won’t solve the immense problems we face, and we are committed as ever to getting our airlines back on track.”

Atlas said it is continuing to negotiate with the IBT for a joint contract for Atlas and Southern Air crewmembers in connection with the carriers’ merger. Atlas completed its acquisition of Cincinnati-based Southern Air in April 2016.

(Mark Nensel - ATWOnline News)

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