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February 21, 2014

Pilot unions squabble about how they're going to come up with seniority integration

In dueling messages sent out to pilots this week, the unions representing American Airlines and US Airways pilots are arguing over the process of how to come up with a seniority integration list.

The US Airline Pilots Association said the Allied Pilots Association, which represents American pilots, wants to change the process on how the two unions discuss creating a seniority integration list.

APA shot back saying that the accusation is "misguided" adding that its position on negotiations between the two pilot groups and American's management has been consistent. APA said it has filed for single-employer status with the National Mediation Board as the two unions had previously agreed and at some point APA will become the legal representative for both groups.

"If we cannot negotiate a list, then we will arbitrate a list; in either case, the objective of the process will be a list that recognizes and maintains the pre-merger career expectations of every pilot at the "new" American Airlines and ensures equitable sharing of any consequential shrinkage or growth between the pre-merger pilot groups," APA said in its message

On Friday, USAPA responded saying that APA is insisting on language that USAPA waive its rights in the seniority integration process and that could harm US Airways' pilots.

"If APA is later named the new collective bargaining agent for all pilots, their language would give APA and the Company the right to modify the protocol agreement and override the agreements made with USAPA," USAPA said.

Keep reading for the APA message sent out this week and the USAPA message that went out on Friday.

-Andrea Ahles

APA message sent out on Thursday

As part of APA's ongoing effort to keep you informed about the progress of the merger, we provide this update on the seniority-integration process and the single-employer proceeding before the National Mediation Board (NMB).

Seniority Integration

On Feb. 19, 2014, the US Airline Pilots Association (USAPA) Merger Committee issued a "Protocol Agreement Update" accusing APA of insisting on "a significant change that would radically change the process you accepted a year ago through ratification of the MOU." That update is seriously misguided. APA's position remained consistent throughout the protocol negotiations.

By way of background, the MOU that became effective Dec. 9, 2013, provides for seniority-integration negotiations to begin as soon as possible after the merger. If the parties are unable to reach a negotiated settlement, the McCaskill-Bond arbitration will occur after the parties' agreement on a Joint Collective Bargaining Agreement (JCBA) and after the NMB finds that US Airways and American Airlines are operating as a single transportation system. The MOU also provides that the parties will negotiate a Seniority Integration Protocol Agreement ("Protocol Agreement") within 30 days of the merger. That timeline has been extended several times by mutual agreement of the parties.

On Feb. 19, 2014, counsel for American Airlines informed APA and USAPA that the parties had failed to reach an agreement on the terms of a Protocol Agreement. USAPA immediately posted an update that stated: "Unfortunately at the last minute, APA insisted on a significant change that would radically change the process you accepted a year ago through ratification of the MOU. . . . With little notice, APA's Merger Committee demanded USAPA allow APA and the Company the option to modify the Protocol Agreement should APA be certified as the sole bargaining representative by the NMB." This statement is incorrect in every respect.

APA and the company have always understood that, at some point after a ruling by the NMB on the single-carrier proceeding, APA would assume representation for pilots at the two carriers and, as a consequence, take on a duty of fair representation to all of the pilots. In recognition of this legally mandated state of affairs, APA therefore agreed that, up until the time APA becomes the representative of the entire pilot group, USAPA would be the sole representative of the pilots at US Airways and handle the merger negotiations within its discretion. However, consistent with the law, once APA becomes the representative of all pilots, APA would of necessity displace USAPA and have authority as the certified collective bargaining representative over the process. USAPA has always insisted that it maintain institutional involvement and a degree of control over the process even after it ceases to be a lawful collective bargaining representative. That, however, cannot be the case under the law, as the Arizona district court judge expressly ruled.

In the litigation between the US Airways East and West pilots over their inability to achieve an integrated seniority list in the eight years since their merger, Judge Silver accepted USAPA's argument opposing the West pilots' request for McCaskill-Bond status. She did so because she accepted the proposition that only the certified representative was entitled to participate in the process. However, in doing so, the court stated that it "has no doubt that — as is USAPA's consistent practice — USAPA will change its position when it needs to do so to fit its hard and unyielding view on seniority. . . . The Court's patience with USAPA has run out. . . . And when USAPA is no longer the certified representative, it must immediately stop participating in the seniority integration."

USAPA's continuing effort to maintain its role in the McCaskill-Bond process even after APA becomes the certified representative of all pilots at the "new" American Airlines runs directly counter to Judge Silver's unambiguous directive. Given that APA will have the legal duty to represent all pilots and, potentially, liability for failing to do so, and especially in light of Judge Silver's express order, neither APA nor the company could possibly agree to let USAPA control the process after it ceased to be the collective bargaining representative. USAPA's effort to blame APA for this state of affairs is simply nonsense.

Single-Employer Proceeding

As we have previously informed you, APA filed for a declaration of single-employer status on Jan. 14, 2014, and filed its Position Statement in support of its request Feb. 19. USAPA filed an opposition Position Statement, arguing principally that the NMB should wait until the parties reach the JCBA (even though we are all already operating under a single collective bargaining agreement) and produce an integrated seniority list.

It is ironic that USAPA would suggest now that there should be no single transportation system finding without an integrated seniority list, given that it made the polar opposite argument in support of its successful petition to have US Airways and America West declared a single transportation system in order to force an election to decertify the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA). In that case, ALPA made precisely the same argument that USAPA makes now, and USAPA successfully opposed it. As a result, the NMB found that a single transportation system existed even though no single collective bargaining agreement existed. In fact, as you know, in the eight years after the US Airways–America West merger and six years after the NMB's January 2008 single-carrier determination, there never was either a single collective bargaining agreement or an integrated seniority list at US Airways.

USAPA's position in the current single-carrier proceeding also contradicts the MOU it negotiated and its members ratified. The parties contemplated that the JCBA would not be final until after a finding by the NMB that the two carriers constituted a single transportation system, and the McCaskill-Bond arbitration could not even begin until after the JCBA.

What's Next?

Failure to reach a Protocol Agreement during the time allotted by the MOU has no practical effect on the timeline for implementation of an integrated seniority list. The MOU itself contemplates the probability that negotiations will not result in an integrated list. With that possibility in mind, it incorporates a timeline and procedure for a final and binding interest arbitration that would occur subsequent to the JCBA process and result in a "fair and equitable" final list that integrates the three separate lists that are currently in effect at the "new" American Airlines. Also, the MOU does not preclude future negotiations between the parties regarding seniority integration should that opportunity present itself as we move through the NMB's single-carrier investigation and JCBA process. If we cannot negotiate a list, then we will arbitrate a list; in either case, the objective of the process will be a list that recognizes and maintains the pre-merger career expectations of every pilot at the "new" American Airlines and ensures equitable sharing of any consequential shrinkage or growth between the pre-merger pilot groups.

USAPA message on Friday

Fellow Pilots,

A year ago, you approved the MOU that became the foundation for the merger and creation of the largest airline in the world, the New American Airlines. Since then, your union has continued to work with all parties to ensure this ratified agreement is completely implemented.

Most recently, your union has been working with APA on JCBA negotiations and on a protocol agreement. This protocol agreement was designed to establish the process for seniority list integration between our two unions. Unfortunately, as reported to you on Wednesdayby the Merger Committee, the two sides are now at an impasse, and past the deadline for a negotiated protocol agreement. 

This impasse occurred when APA insisted on language that required USAPA to waive its rights under the McCaskill Bond Amendment and could seriously harm US Airways pilots in the future. If APA is later named the new collective bargaining agent for all pilots, their language would give APA and the Company the right to modify the protocol agreement and override the agreements made with USAPA. Changing rules like this would create an unfair situation and subvert the McCaskill-Bond seniority integration process that was designed to prevent unfair merger practices. USAPA has a duty to protect the interests of our pilots and could not agree to waive these important rights.

McCaskill-Bond is an important law passed after American Airlines acquired Trans World Airlines. The seniority integrations of that merger led to the wholesale disruption of TWA crewmembers lives. As a result, Federal legislation was passed to establish a procedure where such disparate results could never happen again. The McCaskill-Bond law will govern seniority integrations for the American/US Airways merger and the law memorializes sections 3 and 13 of the Allegheny Mohawk LLPs.

Although the procedures of the McCaskill-Bond legislation are in place, the Company and APA appear to be attempting to accelerate the NMB procedures for determining the bargaining representative of the pilots in order to subvert the authority of USAPA in the seniority integration process. In doing so APA is asserting that once it becomes the bargaining representative for all of our pilots, it will have the right to control the process and the merger committee that will represent the USAPA pilots in the arbitration.

For this reason, your union filed a request yesterday (click here) with the NMB for a list of arbitrators under section 13(a) of the Allegheny-Mohawk LLPs. This provision provides that when a dispute or controversy cannot be settled by the affected parties within 20 days, either party may refer it to an arbitrator selected from a panel of seven names furnished by the NMB. The parties involved select the arbitrator by alternately striking names until one remains. The selected arbitrator must render a decision within 90 days unless the parties agree to extend that time limit. Invoking this process will ensure USAPA’s Merger Committee can represent you through the seniority integration process.

This is not a step taken lightly, but it is necessary to make sure all pilots of the new American Airlines are treated fairly. Moreover, your union is considering all opportunities to protect your rights. While negotiating a protocol agreement with APA was certainly preferable, we remain confident in our intent and ability to arrive at a fair and equitable seniority integration under the protections of the McCaskill-Bond legislation.

We will keep you informed of future developments.


Regards,

Gary Hummel, President

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Comments

Greg

What a surprise to see pilots unions arguing over seniority! The age old saga continues.

SidMedford

USAPA. The union that wouldn't follow the provisions of Binding Arbitration. Ironic, no?

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