ABX Air seeks injunction against pilot unions

US freighter lessor Air Transport Services Group (ATSG) has initiated legal action against two pilot unions who want the company’s subsidiary cargo airlines, ABX Air (ABX) and Air Transport International (ATI), to be defined as a single system.
ATSG has also warned its customers that unfavourable court rulings or a "job action" by the union could result in a “reduction” in ABX Air’s service levels.
ABX Air has filed a complaint in the US District Court for the Southern District of Ohio against the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Airline Division and the Airline Professionals Association of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Local 1224 (collectively, the IBT).
ABX is seeking “injunctive and declaratory relief” for alleged violations of the Railway Labor Act under the labour agreement between ABX Air and the IBT covering ABX Air’s pilot employees.
John Starkovich, president of ABX Air, said that the IBT has taken several actions in violation of its labour agreement with ABX Air.
In a statement, the carrier said that the violations include “advising ABX Air’s pilot employees to end their longstanding practices of bidding for extra flying on a volunteer basis and selling vacation days back to ABX Air”.
This, said the carrier, resulted in ABX Air having to “assign that work to pilots, which results in premium pay and the granting of compensatory vacation days”.
Late last week, IBT filed a request with the US National Mediation Board (NMB)  for it to consider whether ABX Air and ATI should be treated as one airline for purposes of collective bargaining.
The IBT is also seeking to force a merger of ABX Air and Air Transport International in negotiations with ABX Air for an amended collective bargaining agreement.
In its original statement, the two unions said that the two carriers “together employ an estimated 400 pilots and operate in the same mid-size cargo freighter segment of the industry, serving the same key customers DHL and Amazon.
The unions contend that ATSG has operated the two carriers “as a single transportation system while maintaining a facade of two separate carriers”.
Starkovich of ABX added in the company’s statement that “a business combination is not the proper subject of bargaining, has nothing to do with the pay, benefits and work rules of ABX Air’s pilot employees, and is not in the best interest of the customers or employees of either airline or ATSG’s shareholders”.
As a result, ABX Air is now seeking a federal court order enjoining an illegal job action under Section 2, First and Section 6 of the US Railway Labor Act.
Said Starkovich: “Our business has expanded rapidly, particularly in the last 12 months, and we have aggressively expanded our flight crew teams at ABX Air to meet growing demand from our customers.
“Our flight crews at ABX Air have benefitted from both premium pay and extra compensatory time off as we have ramped up our operations. We are asking only that these pilots continue to honour their obligations under terms spelled out in our labour agreement as we hire, train and add more pilots to ABX Air’s workforce.”
Joe Hete, president and chief executive of ATSG, said that ABX Air’s customers have been notified of the company’s position and the steps it is taking to resolve the labour issue and assure continued superior service.
Said Hete: “We hope that the leadership of the IBT will work with ABX Air to resolve these issues via negotiation, arbitration and other means available under their labor agreement.
“It is possible, however, that unfavourable court rulings or a job action by the union could result in a reduction in ABX Air’s service levels that would have a material negative effect on the business of ABX Air and ATSG. ABX Air will continue to work with the IBT in an effort to ensure that no such service interruptions take place.”

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