Atlas Air hits back in pilot contract dispute as PR battle heats up

Atlas Air Worldwide is claiming victory in the latest development in its dispute with pilots over a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA), while it has also ramped up its PR campaign.

The aircraft operator and lessor claims that an arbitration decision has ordered unions back to the negotiating table with subsidiary Southern Air following a delay caused by a misunderstanding by the pilots’ representatives.

Atlas said that the unions had claimed that it was the company that was delaying talks.

A release sent out by Atlas quotes the following from the arbitration decision: “We can conclude with some certainty, however, that there has been a delay inspired by the Union’s misapprehension of the contractual requirements and that they must now respond vigorously to the Company’s request to proceed.”

In response, Bryan Holmberg, a pilot at Southern Air and the Southern Air Executive Council Chairman at APA Teamsters Local 1224 said: “Obviously we are disappointed in the decision by the arbitrator and believe the decision does not comport with the contract.

“The real culprit though is the company’s management, who have tried to use every avenue to undermine the ability of Southern’s pilots to negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement. The Atlas pilots say they are also incensed by the arbitrator’s decision.

Robert Kirchner, Atlas Air pilot and Executive Council Chairman for Atlas Air pilots of Teamsters Local 1224, added: “The arbitrator’s decision attempts to direct the Southern pilots to merge with Atlas pilots who work under a separate collective bargaining agreement,” said Capt. . “It is unfortunate that the Southern arbitration decision results came out as they did. But we are incredulous that he would think he can order us — at another airline that had no part of the arbitration — to merge our seniority list. The arbitrator has no jurisdiction over the Atlas pilots. It’s not going to happen.”

Atlas Air Worldwide is hoping to bring pilots from Southern Air and Atlas Air onto the same joint CBA following its takeover of Southern in 2016.

Meanwhile, the company has also hit back in the PR battle between both parties. The aircraft owner has launched a website, Atlasair5ypilots.com, which provides updates of the latest developments in the negotiations, a fact checker, a frequently asked questions section, and crew updates.

On the website, the company has also published a strongly worded letter to dispute an article published in the Miami Herald regarding the tragic B767 accident that saw three crew members lose their lives.

The move comes as a major Atlas customer, and also shareholder, appears to be becoming frustrated with the dispute.

An Amazon spokesperson recently told Business Insider: “Neither side seems willing to work towards a reasonable compromise. This is contrary to the interests of Atlas, the pilots, and the customers they both serve. We repeatedly hear claims made by the union regarding Atlas’s service for Amazon that when investigated are factually inaccurate.”

“The continued inability of Atlas and their pilot union to resolve these negotiations could result in a change to the allocation of our current and future aircraft. We have an obligation to deliver to our customers, and so do they.”

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