Pilots for three airlines owned by Indianapolis-based Republic Airways Holdings voted to authorize their union leaders to call a strike against the company should it become necessary.
Members of International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local No. 357 who fly for Chautauqua, Republic Airlines and Shuttle America overwhelmingly voted "yes" in a union-held strike authorization election that closed on Tuesday.
The vote does not mean that pilots will strike immediately. Union representatives and the company have been in federally mediated contract negotiations under the Railway Labor Act.
This vote determines whether the Executive Council/Executive Board can exercise the pilots' legal right to strike at Republic Airways Holdings upon release from the National Mediation Board. The resulting "yes" vote authorizes the union leadership to call a strike should it become necessary but does not force the union to call a strike or make a strike inevitable. RAH pilots are working under a 2003 contract. The contract has been amendable since 2007.
Local 357's leadership has willingly limited contract negotiations to four critical sections – outsourcing, compensation, displacements/vacancies and scheduling. Talks are currently in federal mediation per Railway Labor Act rules. All scheduled mediation sessions have concluded. The mediator has not yet decided whether to hold additional sessions or to recommend releasing the union and company from mediation to potential self-help/strike activity.
"We don't want to strike," explained Pat Gannon. "However, we need the company to understand that it is in everyone's best interest to treat pilots fairly and with respect. We have pilots who work long hours, but still can't feed their families."
Gannon explained that First Officer pay has topped out and continued increases in benefit costs have resulted in what is essentially a pay cut for many.
"It's sad that some of our pilots can make more money drawing unemployment than doing the professional job they have been trained for and were hired to do," Gannon said.
With 98.86 percent of eligible pilots in the unit voting, 99.25 percent voted for strike authorization. More than 74 percent cast their vote on the first day.
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