Pilots’ unions to enter mediation with Atlas Air Worldwide

Unions representing pilots that fly for DHL-contracted carriers Atlas Air, Inc. and Polar Air Cargo have requested to begin mediation with Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings, Inc. (AAWW) via the National Mediation Board (NMB), stating that Atlas Air has “refused to engage in any further legally-mandated negotiations.” AAWW said they have strongly objected to such negotiations.

“Pilots are fed up with Atlas and AAWW’s game playing and backroom corporate maneuvering to try to deny us basic workplace protections like the much-needed time to rest between international flights,” said Captain Mike Griffith, an Atlas pilot and Communications Chairman of APA Teamsters Local 1224. “We believe the federal government intervening will make sure they work with us to come to a fair contract agreement that is up to cargo industry standards.”

The unions – The International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Teamsters Airline Division and APA Teamsters Local 1224 – represent more than 1,300 pilots flying for DHL-contracted airlines. After approving the pilots’ request, the NMB assigned an airline labor mediator to assess the parties’ dispute and will determine how best to proceed with negotiations.

The unions’ concerns stem from AAWW’s recent acquisition of Southern Air Holdings, Inc. (SAI), which placed two additional carriers – Southern Air Inc. and Florida West International Airways – under AAWW’s control. Atlas Air then requested that it pilots halt ongoing contract negotiations and merge their contracts with those held by the Southern Air pilots. According to the unions, such a move would have “a devastating impact” that could suppress wages and lower quality of life issues for pilots at Atlas Air and Polar Air Cargo.

According to a study conducted by Teamsters Local 1224, AAWW pilots are paid considerably less and work much longer hours than pilots who fly comparable routes for UPS or FedEx. Pilots at Atlas, Polar and Southern reported being forced to fly long hours with minimal rest time in between flights, leading to dangerous fatigue, the unions claim.

DHL owns 49 percent of AAWW’s Polar Air Cargo subsidiary and is estimated to account for more than 50 percent of Atlas Air’s business, the unions said. DHL is also the exclusive customer of AAWW’s newly acquired Southern Air, Inc. Teamsters Local 1224 raised questions regarding the influence DHL has on the business affairs of AAWW and SAI, and has asked the Department of Transportation to intervene to ensure that DHL is not violating federal aviation laws and regulations that prohibit interference with United States air carriers by foreign entities.

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