ALPA: Airlink flights in jeopardy

As a bankruptcy court hearing
continues this week to determine whether or not Mesaba Airlines can throw out
the pilots’ existing contract, the Air Line Pilots Association announced that Mesaba Airlines pilots have overwhelmingly authorized a strike
if management is allowed to impose terms that would have airline pilots flying
at poverty-level wages.The pilots voted to authorize their union leaders to call for a removal of
service by a 98 percent margin. ALPA leaders say that a strike would be
contingent on both the outcome of the bankruptcy court hearing as well as
management’s subsequent actions. If Mesaba management follows through on their
threats to impose changes to the pilots’ contract making Mesaba’s pilot wages,
benefits, and working conditions the worst in the industry, ALPA leaders have
their members’ unqualified approval to call a strike.
  “The only viable path out of bankruptcy for Mesaba Airlines includes
consensual agreements with its labor groups,” said Captain Tom Wychor,
chairman of the Mesaba unit of ALPA. “Management’s continued abuse of the
bankruptcy process can only lead to liquidation of the airline—either
through a pilot strike or through a mass exodus of highly experienced
  The pilots agreed to a new contract in January of 2004 that put Mesaba
pilots in line with the industry average for wages and work rules. Starting
salaries for Mesaba pilots, who operate both jet and turboprop aircraft, is
just $21,000 per year. An average Mesaba pilot makes approximately $45,000.
Management’s term sheet slashes wages and benefits to the lowest levels in the
industry. A new hire pilot would gross just $13,100 after paying 50 percent
premiums for family health care. More senior pilots would see their pay
reduced by up to 66 percent.
  “Not only will pilots not work for these kinds of wages, but I’m certain
that the traveling public would not want to fly in the back of a plane if they
knew that the pilots were being paid poverty wages necessitating second and
third jobs just to make ends meet,” said Wychor.  “Pilots are highly skilled
professionals with a great deal of responsibility, and it behooves our airline
to attract the finest employees possible to provide the safest and best
experience for their passengers.”
  ALPA acknowledges that the airline needs concessions in light of the
proposed 49-Saab fleet, and it has offered at least $8.5 million in
concessions. Management, however, has been unwilling thus far to back off of
their demands for $34 million over the next six years.