May 30, 2007

US Airways-pilots end the week at odds

US Airways pilots continued at odds with management and each other Friday.

First word came down the executive council of the Air Line Pilots Association was delaying any endorsement on an arbitrated seniority award that has angered US Airways pilots, who say it favors the former America West pilots.

Then a US Airways corporate filing with the Security and Exchange Commission publicly announced details in a labor negotiation spurned by both pilot groups. Phone calls and e-mails were flying between all concerned as the day's events unfolded.

America West and US Airways pilots were brought under the umbrella of a merged Tempe-based US Airways in 2005, but have operated separately.

As revealed in the SEC filing, management's proposal could cost the airline about $122 million a year to, in large part, finance raising US Airways pilots pay to higher rates paid to America West pilots.

The company also proposes increasing America West pilots' pay by 3 percent. Across the board, pilots would get hourly pay increases ranging from 3 percent to 17 percent, averaging 10 percent, according to the filing.

John McIlvenna, a union spokesman for the America West pilots, said his pilots and the east ones soundly rejected management's offer in early this month.

"We disagree with the assessment of the average pay raise," McIlvenna said. "It's a zero gain because they are raising pay and cutting back on such things as disability and health insurance. We'd be subsidizing our own raises."

Andrea Rader, US Airways corporate spokeswoman, said, "I don't know where they're getting that. If they think that they need to bring their concerns to the table."

She said the proposal includes vacation and duty protection. "We look forward to their counter proposal."

Capt. Jack Stephan, representing the east pilots, said the proposal was viewed as "extremely insulting" when presented to both pilot groups. "This merger will never get off the ground unless the airline gets serious about negotiating with the pilots," Stephan said.

Meanwhile Friday, the executive counsel of the pilots union delayed until next month a decision on whether to endorse a seniority award that went to binding arbitration.

During meetings this week, counsel members heard from both pilot groups.

McIlvenna, of the America West group, said the delay further hampers labor negotiations with management. Not entirely happy with the seniority award, he said the America West pilots have accepted it.

The US Airways pilots contend the award undermines job security and advancement for their senior pilots.

The US Airways pilots have pulled out of a meeting scheduled in Washington, D.C., next week to talk about other labor issues.

Earlier this week pilots from the western contingent picketed at Sky Harbor International Airport to let the traveling public know their concerns. They were not joined by any of their eastern brethren. Another picket is scheduled Saturday in Las Vegas.

The Associate Press contributed to this story
Christia Gibbons
The Arizona Republic


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