Atlas, Southern and Polar pilots vote to authorise strike action

18 / 05 / 2016

Pilots working for Atlas Air, Southern Air, Polar Air, ABX and Kalitta have voted in favour of authorising their unions to call strike action.

Nearly 2,000 pilots, representing 93% of union members, at the five US cargo carriers voted online through anonymous balloting in April and May, with 99% of voters giving the go-ahead to take strike action if necessary.

The vote to authorise strike action does not necessarily mean industrial action will take place, but can be seen as a useful agreement to have in place while negotiations are ongoing.

The Teamsters union claimed that the five carriers account for approximately 70% of DHL’s total flying worldwide, while it could also have an impact on Amazon, which will lease aircraft from ATSG and Atlas.

“This is truly an unprecedented situation where pilots across five different companies are standing up together to send a message that we refuse to be treated below industry standards,” said Captain Mike Griffith, an Atlas pilot.

“By calling this strike vote, we are telling our respective companies – and DHL – that they need to listen to the pilots who keep them flying and help build their millions in profits.”

In response, Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings, which owns or has stakes in Atlas, Southern and Polar, said the unions had no right to call a strike.

The dispute centres on ongoing negotiations between unions and airlines over new pilot contracts, with Atlas and Southern negotiations complicated by the merger of the two companies.

"The union's strike authorisation vote is another commonly utilised tactic by the union in attempt to leverage its bargaining position with Atlas for a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA)," Atlas said.

"The union has no right to strike by law, regardless of any strike authorisation vote.

"The Atlas Air and Southern Air CBAs specifically provide that upon a merger, if the parties cannot reach a joint contract, any open issues are resolved through an orderly resolution process."

"Pilots at all airlines are saying they’re exhausted with extended contract negotiations and ready to come to a much-needed agreement," the union said.

"The Kalitta pilots have been engaged in prolonged negotiations with the company for nearly six years.

"Meanwhile, ATGS’s ABX pilots endured furloughs and wage and benefit concessions in 2009, when DHL abruptly cut its operations in Wilmington, Ohio. Since then, pilots have been working under the 2009 concessionary contract with ABX and have been negotiating for an amended contract for more than two years."

Negotiations between Atlas and Unions recently entered mediation.