ATSG and pilot unions step up the war of words over “single system” dispute

US freighter lessor Air Transport Services Group (ATSG) and its pilot unions have exchanged further words in a growing legal dispute.
ATSG has initiated court action in the US against two unions who want the company’s subsidiary cargo airlines, ABX Air (ABX) and Air Transport International (ATI), to be defined as a single system. The complaint was filed by ABX.
The parent group 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.
In a statement backed by the unions involved, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Airline Division and the Airline Professionals Association of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Local 1224 (collectively, the IBT), a long-time ABX pilot, Rick Ziebarth, said: “The reality is that ABX Air and its parent company, ATSG, know they are facing a serious staffing crisis of their own making and have stooped to legal maneuvers and unfounded claims to skirt their responsibilities as an employer and cargo contractor.”
“ABX Air is constantly putting pilots in a position where we are being denied earned vacation days and are called out on emergency assignments. In fact, in 2016 while averaging only 225 pilots, pilots have been scheduled to cover over 7000 emergency assignment days – days that we should have had off.” 
Ziebarth added: “ABX pilots will continue standing up for a properly-staffed airline so we can address the pilot shortage and serve our customers and shareholders, and we hope that ABX and ATSG will stop with the legal games and work with us to achieve that goal.”
In response, an investor relations representative from ATSG said: “ABX Air filed suit in federal court to stop the Teamsters from engaging in unlawful actions designed to further its inappropriate demands during collective bargaining.
“ABX felt compelled to take this action to avoid imminent interruptions to interstate commerce. While disagreements over the interpretation and application of the existing collective bargaining agreement inevitably arise in day to day dealings between the parties, a grievance mechanism is in place for just such minor disputes and should be used instead of self-help and other concerted actions.
“ABX Air has met and remains willing to sit down with the Teamsters in good faith to discuss appropriate subjects of bargaining with the ultimate goal of providing the excellent service our customers expect and deserve.”
In March 2016, ATSG confirmed that it had signed a deal with Amazon Fulfillment Services, an affiliate of Amazon.com, to operate an air cargo network of 20 Boeing freighters to serve Amazon customers in the US.
The deal allows Amazon to purchase up to 19.99% of ATSG stock in three tranches. Amazon has already exercised the right to take 9.99% of ATSG shares.

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