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  • Labor Pains: Dissension at Frontier, Midwest and Spirit
    Posted by Andrew Compart 8:06 PM on Mar 23, 2009


    Frontier is claiming that its pilots union is trying to back out of a contractual agreement to suspend the airline's matching contributions to their 401(k) plans. The dispute is based on two very different interpretations of the cost-cutting agreements the airline and union reached last year.

    Midwest is blaming its pilots union for Midwest's decision to suspend its plan to bring back laid-off flight crews to fly the Embraer E-170 aircraft currently operated by crews from Republic. In a March 10 memo to employees, Midwest Chairman and CEO Timothy Hoeksema said the airline has "suspended the  E-170 certification  process  indefinitely" in the absence of cost-cutting concessions from the pilots union. Airline spokesman Michael Brophy told me last week that management made the decision because "we reached a point where we would have to invest more money and human resources in it, and without a clear signal that concessions were going to be on the horizon, we said we’re just going to pull the plug on this.”

    At Spirit, pilots won a round in their ongoing battle with management when an arbitration panel ruled that Spirit must continue to allow pilots as many as five days off--and now fewer than four--between scheduled trips. Those trips can last as long as six days. The Air Line Pilots Assn., of course, hailed the decision. Spirit declined comment. But the bigger point here may be how poisoned the relationship between the airline and its unions seem to be. The flight attendants were not shy about blasting management over in-flight advertising (subscriber-only story) or some of its provocative sales promotions. Last fall Spirits pilots filed a lawsuit (subscriber-only story) against the carrier that accused management of repeatedly violating the collective bargaining agreement by unilaterally changing the terms of the contract. Spirit defended its actions as necessary and legal—and good for employees in the long run.

    Meanwhile, at Delta, yet another work group has decided not to unionize. This time it was the meteorologists. That created a sunny disposition at Delta, which said the decision "will allow us to move forward with a transition plan that aligns the pay, benefits and work rules for our combined meteorologist team" at Delta and its Northwest subsidiary.

    Tags: tw99, unions

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