Atlas Pilots Picket Shareholder Meeting in New York
Pilots from Atlas Air and Southern Air picketed in New York yesterday outside the annual shareholder meeting of their parent company, Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings, Inc. (AAWW).
The pilots lined the Avenue of the Americas in midtown Manhattan, holding signs reading, “Our Families Deserve Better” and “Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings Pilots Ready to Strike.”
The protest came on the heals of a nearly unanimous vote to strike by U.S. pilots flying for DHL’s largest contracting airline.
AAWW owns three airlines that fly for DHL: Atlas Air, Inc., Polar Air Cargo, Inc. and Southern Air Holdings, Inc. The pilots are represented by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, and its airline affiliate, Teamsters Local 1224.
“We’re here because we need Atlas to stop playing games and get serious about working with us to come to a fair contract agreement that ensures we can safely and efficiently meet the demands of clients like DHL and Amazon,” said Atlas Air Captain Mike Griffith who is protesting today.
The union claims that AAWW and its airline affiliates refuse to negotiate fairly with its Atlas, Polar and Southern pilots despite rising profits. The Teamsters claim that AAWW and its airline affiliates are attempting to force the pilots to merge the now obsolete Atlas Air contract with Southern Air’s contract that was negotiated during bankruptcy.
The strategy, according to the union, is to force arbitration on the pilots and suppress wages and slash quality of life provisions and pilot work protections.
AAWW claims that existing collective bargaining agreements call for the merger of contracts in the event of an acquisition by the company.
The National Mediation Board (NMB), a United States government agency that facilitates labor-management relations in the aviation and railroad industries, recently accepted the request of the union to mediate contract negotiations with the airlines.
Citing growing concerns over stalled contract negotiations, pilots at the three AAWW carriers and two additional North American DHL-contracted airlines, ABX and Kalitta Air, recently voted with 99 percent support to strike if necessary.
A strike would halt AAWW’s global flying and cripple operations for DHL. DHL accounts for more than 50 percent of Atlas Air’s business, and it is the sole customer of Southern Air. A strike could also have a significant impact on Amazon.com. The online retailer just signed an agreement with Atlas Air to double its fleet for domestic packages.
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