Atlas Air comes out on top in arbitration versus Southern Air pilot union

Source: Miami Airport

Atlas Air won an arbitration case against the Airline Professionals Association union in a dispute over the merger between Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings, Inc. and Southern Air, Inc.

Leadership for Southern Air pilots in Teamsters Local 1224 has 45 days as of June 12 to compile an integrated seniority list (ISL). Once the ISL has been submitted, Atlas Air and Southern Air will have nine months to merge their crewmember collective bargaining agreements, with any outstanding issues to be resolved in binding arbitration.

The union contended that they were not contractually obligated to provide an ISL or to participate in the steps that the companies are taking to achieve a Joint Collective Bargaining Agreement (JCBA). The union argued that it “had no obligation to participate in bargaining that would lead to binding interest arbitration,” according to the decision, and claimed that its contractual obligations in the process don’t begin until the merger is complete.

Atlas Air said in a press release that winning the case will move it closer towards its goal of increasing pay for pilots from both companies. A spokesperson told Air Cargo World that they’re still working towards the new agreement, but the union had been “unwilling to provide an economic proposal of their pay and benefits requests.”

The union hasn’t gotten there, yet. Capt. Robert Kirchner, an Atlas Air pilot and Executive Council Chairman for Atlas Air pilots of Teamsters Local 1224, told Air Cargo World that the arbitration decision only affects the pilots from Southern Air and there’s another arbitration case that’s still undecided for Atlas Air pilots. He pointed out that Atlas Air has about six times as many pilots as Southern Air – nearly 1,800 to approximately 300, respectively.

Following the decision that the union must produce an ISL within 45 days, Kirchner said he doesn’t know “how they intend on that happening because [Richard Bloch, who signed the decision] has no jurisdiction whatsoever over the Atlas pilots and we’re not going to do that. We’re not moving in that direction at all.”

The union maintains that the company’s pay is below industry standards, and pilots don’t receive maternity leave or get half-pay sick days, which is driving workers away. The company tried to hire 389 pilots over this past year, according to union records, but only grew by a net of 43 pilots.

The Atlas Air spokesperson said that the company wants to recognize its crew’s contributions “by reaching a new agreement that increases pay and compensates them at the levels they deserve. We need the union’s cooperation to make that happen.”

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