Seniority is an important issue in the airline industry. It affects everything from work schedules to job assignments to standby flight benefits and more. It is so critical that it has created strange bedfellows in lawsuits filed last week regarding the merger of American Airlines and US Airways.
The seemingly odd combination of American Airlines (AA) and its pilots union, Allied Pilots Association (APA), joined together Friday to file a counter claim against the US Airline Pilots Association (USAPA). The center of the dispute is exactly how seniority will be determined.
During negotiations between the two unions during the American Airlines/US Airways merger process last year, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was reached between the two pilots unions, according to an article published yesterday in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. The Memorandum allows for an arbitration process to be put in place to settle disputes in seniority integration–but only after a new labor contract has been agreed to between the unions and American Airlines. Now, the USAPA seeks to change the rules and force a negotiation prior to the labor contract negotiation.
In court documents obtained by Breitbart Texas, the USAPA seeks to force AA and APA into an arbitration process early under the McCaskill-Bond Amendment to the Federal Aviation Act. The case is filed before the U.S. District Court in Washington D.C. presided over by Judge Beryl Howell.
American Airlines responded in their counter-suit, “The Company seeks to put a stop, once and for all, to USAPA’s bad-faith behavior in trying to escape the provisions of the MOU regarding seniority integration for the pre-merger US Airways and pre-merger American pilot groups,” according to the Star-Telegram article.
The Dallas Morning News reported the USAPA cannot simply change the already agreed to process, “as it agreed to a different seniority integration process and timeline in the [memo of understanding] and may not now repudiate that agreement.”
The airline and the APA have stated firmly the MOU clearly states the arbitration process cannot commence until after the airline and the unions have negotiated a contract that covers all of the airline pilots in both unions.
No court date for the dispute has been set as of this publication.
The dispute between the pilots’ unions is not the only labor problem being faced by AA under the merger process. The Los Angeles Times reported that the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM), the union representing the 14,000 machinists, mechanics and fleet service workers of US Airways, is threatening a strike because of the failure of US Airways to reach agreement on a labor contract. The dispute between the airline and the union has been underway for two years.
“We won’t be treated differently than other employees at the airline,” said Joe Tiberi, a spokesman for the IAM. “If management is unwilling to present a contract that is acceptable to us, we are prepared to strike.”
Last week, the union asked to be released from the negotiation process, according to local reports. This would be the first step in a process that could lead to a strike after a 30-day cooling off period. The Transportation Workers Union of America (TWU) that represents the 22,000 workers of American Airlines said it would be ready to support a strike by the US Airways union.
“Management has said they want to have better labor relations than existed at either US Airways or the old American,” said Harry Lombardo, president of the TWU. “Yet the airline’s leadership has locked mechanics and other ground workers represented by IAM into a second-class status.”
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