Company pushes back arbitration
Atlas Air pilots face yet another delay in their five year-long struggle to secure a new collective bargaining agreement with the airline. A contract arbitration ruling, which most recently was expected to be issued in June, now likely won’t come until August as pilot negotiators report that the company is dragging its feet in what had been billed as an “expedited” arbitration.
“While pilots have actively been working on final legal briefs for the arbitrator, Atlas management has been engaged in all sorts of stalling tactics and doing everything they can to delay the submission of the case to the arbitrator,” said Robert Kirchner, head of the International Aviation Professionals (IAP), Teamsters Local 2750, which represents the more than 2,600 Atlas Air pilots.
“Delay, delay, delay are the only words Atlas managers know when it comes to getting a contract done with their largest and most important work group,” said Kirchner. “The irony is that when flights are delayed, management goes crazy over lost revenue. But pilots have had over five years of delay, which translates into tens of thousands in lost compensation for each pilot.”
The pilots’ contract has been eligible for amendment since 2016, and pilots have been seeking to update the contract through direct talks with management since then. But Atlas management has sought since 2016 to force the pilots into an arbitration process.
According to Kirchner, management most recent stalling tactics include reopening what had been tentatively resolved contractual issues and setting conditions that are completely irrelevant to final briefs being submitted.
As of today, final submission of arbitration briefs will be due June 7, which makes any award from the arbitrator most likely not occurring until sometime in August in the best-case scenario. But the Company also claims it may then seek even more briefing, , using what is called reply briefs, that will cause yet more delays.
“After over five years of negotiating and a full blown 11-day arbitration, reply briefs are not necessary and serve only to delay the arbitration even further, said Kirchner. “Atlas executives have made the calculated choice to hand over key decisions about the future financial and operational direction of the airline to a third-party arbitrator, washing their hands of any responsibility. At the same time, they have been delaying the process to avoid answering questions from investors or customers, many of whom have raised concerns about the failure of management to resolve the contract dispute with the pilots. Management gets another pass in the upcoming quarterly earnings call on May 5 to address the airlines future by saying we are waiting for arbitration to finish.”