Arbitrator affirms Atlas Air’s win against pilots’ union

Today, Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings confirmed that its subsidiary Atlas Air won an arbitration against the union that represents its pilots, the Airline Professionals Association, Teamsters Local 1224. The arbitration decision made yesterday affirms that the merger provisions of the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) apply in connection with Atlas Air’s 2016 acquisition of Southern Air. 

The decision also affirms that Teamsters Local 1224 has been in violation of the existing CBA by refusing to follow merger provisions requiring a new joint collective bargaining agreement and submission of an integrated pilot seniority list to Atlas Air. In a separate, but related proceeding, Teamsters Local 1224 also was found to be in violation of the Southern Air CBA on June 13, 2019, for refusing to follow merger provisions for the same joint collective bargaining agreement on behalf of its Southern Air pilots. 

“It is time for our hardworking crew of over 2,000 Atlas Air and Southern Air pilots to receive a new, competitive contract with enhanced pay and benefits. This has been our goal since we announced the Atlas-Southern merger in early 2016,” said Atlas Air Worldwide CEO and chairman William Flynn in a statement. “The recent decisions by the arbitrators have made clear that the existing collective bargaining agreements provide the appropriate path for the merger and should have been followed.”  

Arbitrators for both cases ordered the union to now proceed with the contractually required negotiations for a new joint collective bargaining agreement in line with the merger. Teamsters Local 1224 is required to submit an integrated seniority list of Atlas Air and Southern Air pilots to the company within 45 days, followed by a period of bargaining, after which any unresolved issues would be submitted to a timely, interest-based arbitration. 

The union expressed its displeasure with the decision in a statement made by recently retired Atlas Air pilot and Executive Council Chairman for Atlas Air pilots of Teamsters Local 1224, Robert Kirchner. 

“Atlas Air executives will claim the amalgamation ruling as a victory, but this is a company in complete turmoil, and this ruling will do nothing to restore shareholder confidence or, more importantly, pilot morale,” he stated. “Atlas Air has waged a vicious legal battle with its pilots for more than three years and squandered opportunities of reaching a reasonable agreement through direct, good-faith negotiations.”  

Despite the U.S. Court of Appeals’ affirmation of a ruling in favor of Atlas Air last month regarding the labor dispute, the union does not plan to back down. 

“Teamsters Local 1224 will pursue all remaining legal options to avoid a contract that is resolved by an arbitrator and that robs pilots of their right to vote on it and ratify as needed,” Kirchner said.  

Ultimately, the most recent ruling will compel some movement in the proceedings given requirements issued in the order.  

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