Court rules in favour of Atlas in ‘work slowdown’ dispute

Atlas Air Boeing 747-400F

The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia has affirmed a Federal Court ruling that ordered Atlas Air pilots to end a work slowdown.

The Federal Court had ruled that pilots should end slowdown practices such as leaving the gate on time – when it was possible for them to leave early – and call in sick on short notice in order to pressure Atlas during negotiations over a new contract.

The unions had sought to overturn this decision, but the appeals court backed the earlier decision.

The pilots’ unions had argued that the contract negotiations should have been classed as a minor dispute, which would have allowed them to carry out work slowdowns, while Atlas said that it was a major dispute, which curtails the unions’ ability to pursue slowdowns until negotiations are complete.

The appeals court also found in favour of Atlas in other arguments made by the unions over their right to work slow.

The Court of Appeals also affirmed the District Court’s decision that the [unions] must maintain the status quo under the Railway Labor Act and must continue to take affirmative action to prevent and to refrain from any form of interference with the Company’s operations, Atlas said.

The dispute comes as Atlas Air Worldwide is hoping to bring pilots from Southern Air and Atlas Air onto the same joint Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) following its takeover of Southern in 2016.

“We are very satisfied with this unanimous ruling from a three-judge panel, which affirms and sustains the preliminary injunction that was entered into 2017,” said William J. Flynn, Chief Executive Officer of Atlas Air Worldwide.

“It is unfortunate that we were compelled to take this extraordinary step of seeking the underlying injunction, but we needed to do so to protect the best interests of our customers, our employees and our Company. Together with our pilots, we remain focused on continuing to provide our customers the high level of service they have come to expect.

“We value the hard work and dedication of our pilots, and look forward to continuing negotiations for a joint collective bargaining agreement in connection with our merger of Atlas Air and Southern Air. We are committed to negotiating an updated agreement that reflects the current market and the significant role our pilots play in the success of our Company.”

In court documents seen by Air Cargo News, the Court of Appeals says that the union had openly encouraged members to follow exactly the CBA to “give [the executive committee] and negotiations committee the leverage and power they need”.

Edward Gleason, an attorney representing Teamsters Local 1224, said it was surprised and deeply disappointed with the decision: “The court has affirmed a status quo injunction without ever identifying the status quo that the union is said to have violated.

“That is the same fundamental mistake that the district court made, and it is one that we believe warrants reconsideration and reversal by the court.  We therefore fully anticipate filing a petition for rehearing along with a petition for rehearing en banc.”



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