MILWAUKEE—- The pilots of Midwest Airlines and Skyway Airlines have voted to accept deep concessions aimed at averting a threatened mid-July bankruptcy filing by Midwest Holdings, Inc.
In separate ratification elections that concluded Tuesday, the pilots of Midwest and Skyway, which operates as Midwest Connect, approved their respective concessions packages. Both groups are represented by the Air Line Pilots Association, International.
“By voting to accept the tentative agreement reached between our negotiating committee and Midwest management, our pilots have once again demonstrated their commitment to our airline, our passengers, and our communities that rely on the air service provided by Midwest Airlines. It is now up to Midwest’s management to follow through with the restructuring process, improve our airline’s operation, and better position us for future growth and financial stability,” said Captain Jerome Schnedorf, chairman of ALPA’s Midwest Airlines unit.
This is the second time this year the Midwest pilots have responded to the airline’s financial challenges. In April, the union leadership granted immediate reductions in pay as fuel prices increased exponentially just prior to the war in Iraq.
With 275 Midwest crewmembers eligible to vote, 243 (88.4%) participated, and 199 (81.89%) cast ballots in favor of restructuring their original five-year contract that went into effect in March 2000. The restructuring agreement substantially changes pilot work rules and scheduling for the next five years, in exchange for a new stock option and employee income sharing program.
Skyway pilots were voting on their second contract rather than modifications to an existing agreement. Of the 183 eligible Skyway pilots, 162 (88.5%) voted, with 148 (91.36%) favoring the new collective bargaining agreement. Both pilot groups’ agreements will run until 2008.
“The Midwest Connect pilots recognize that our future is tied to the future of our airline. We accepted sacrifices in our contract to help our airline weather these difficult times and to secure a strong future for Midwest Connect, as well as for our families and ourselves. Our hope is that the airline`s dedicated employees will be able to work with management to ensure that the Midwest family continues to provide the best service to our customers and to our community,” said Capt. Brian Belmonti, chairman of the Skyway pilot group.
Negotiators for both pilot groups faced intense pressure from the management groups to negotiate complex and technical agreements over a very restricted timeline. Pilot leaders undertook a massive communications effort to educate pilots on all issues of the concessionary packages prior to expedited balloting of the membership that was conducted July 12-15. Midwest management had threatened to seek protection under the U.S Bankruptcy Code if its three employee unions had not agreed to concessions by midnight July 15.
Milwaukee-based Midwest Airlines operates a fleet of DC-9, MD-82, MD-88 and Boeing 717 aircraft to 24 cities throughout the United States. Skyway Airlines fleet of 328JET and Beech 1900D aircraft operate from Milwaukee to cities throughout the upper Midwest and to Toronto, Canada.
Founded in 1931, the Air Line Pilots Association, International, is the world’s oldest and largest pilots union, representing 66,000 pilots at 42 airline carriers in the United States and Canada. ALPA’s website is http://www.alpa.org.