Atlas takes pilots to court over ‘intentional work slowdown’

Labor relations between Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings (AAWW) and Teamsters Local Union No. 1224 (IBT), which represents the airline’s pilots, took a nosedive on Monday, with AAWW announcing that it was seeking a preliminary injunction to require its pilots to “stop the illegal and intentional work slowdown and service interruptions they are causing.”

In its filing, Atlas accused the pilots of an “unlawful, concerted work slowdown to gain advantage in pilot contract negotiations currently underway with the IBT.” The company went on to say that the work slowdown and service interruptions “are causing significant flight delays and harm to the company and its valued customers.”

William Flynn, president and CEO of Atlas Air Worldwide, released a statement that read: “The deliberate campaigns and resulting pattern of disruptive behavior encouraged by the IBT over many months clearly establishes the IBT’s unlawful intent to gain advantage in the pilot contract negotiations currently underway.  It is clear that the changes in behavior have been orchestrated by the IBT through such actions as the ‘BOOT’ [block out on time] and ‘SHOP’ [stop helping out Purchase] campaigns, as well as encouraging members to call in sick and fatigued at unprecedented levels and on short notice.”

Where the airline and its pilots diverge, however, is over what’s causing the slowdown. During its ongoing attempts at reaching a settlement with AAWW, pilots have spent months warning of delays, which they attributed to a contract-related pilot shortage. “There is no work slowdown,” one Atlas pilot told Air Cargo World. The union says that Atlas is unwilling to grant them a contract that is up to industry standards, resulting in low morale and an exodus of pilots.

Atlas has maintained that it doesn’t have a pilot shortage, and this week’s filing indicates that the airline blames union tactics, rather than a lack of pilots. In May of this year, Atlas told ACW that it employed more than 1,700 pilots at the end of 2016, an increase of almost 600 since the end of 2014.

Daniel Wells, president of APA Teamsters Local 1224 disagreed, arguing that the lawsuit was, “part of the company’s ongoing efforts to abdicate responsibility for its failures and refusal to address the long-expected decline in global pilot supply.”

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