Atlas Air, ABX, Southern Air pilots protest at CVG

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Aug. 20, 2019: This story has been updated to include comment from Atlas Air. 

Tomorrow, pilots flying for Atlas Air, Southern Air and ABX Air, which operate on behalf of Amazon Air and DHL, will protest at Cincinatti/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG), which is the largest hub for these carriers. Pilots are protesting stalled contract negotiations regarding working conditions between their union, Airline Professionals Association (APA) Teamsters Local 1224, and the carriers. 

The protest will take place on Aug. 20 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. local time outside of the headquarters for Atlas Air and Southern Air near CVG. Pilots will carry signs that read “AAWW + ABX Pilots: Overworked, underpaid & exploited. It’s just plane wrong,” according to the press release issued by the pilot union. 

The protest follows an ongoing series of negotiations between the carriers and Teamsters Local 1224, which has argued to settle an industry-standard labor contract, that have now stalled.  

A study by the pilot’s union alleges that 60% of pilots employed with these carriers are preparing to leave their positions and seeking work at competitors to the carriers, such as UPS and FedEx. The survey further contends that 65% of pilots that responded from Atlas Air and ABX Air have little faith their cargo carrier has enough pilots to meet the long-term demand of Amazon and its Amazon Air program. 

While it is not yet clear what impact tomorrow’s protests will have, the discontent among pilots has in the past fueled other actions to pressure the carriers, including the pilots calling in sick on short notice and refusing to volunteer for overtime shifts, in addition to other protests. Despite the U.S. Court of Appeals’ recent affirmation of a ruling in favor of Atlas Air last month regarding the labor dispute, the upcoming protest demonstrates the union does not plan to back down.

Responding to the protest announcement, a company spokesperson for Atlas Air said that the company values its crew and pilots, and “remains committed” to providing a new, competitive contract with enhanced benefits as soon as possible.  

“In connection with Atlas Air’s pending merger with Southern Air, the union need only tender the company an integrated seniority list, which would start the clock on a contractually defined period of bargaining after which any unresolved issues would be submitted for interest arbitration,” the spokesperson said. The carrier also contended that “unnecessary delays” to the process were due to the union “refus[ing] to honor its contractual commitments, as confirmed by recent court and arbitration decisions.” 

ABX Air was also contacted for comment on the issue, but has not yet responded. Stay tuned for updates as the situation evolves. 

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