ST. LOUIS, MO – Trans States Airlines pilots, represented by the Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l (ALPA), are urging their management to come to the negotiating table this week and earnestly work toward finalizing a contract that recognizes the pilots’ professionalism and dedication to the financially successful airline. Despite two-and-a-half years of bargaining with management, TSA pilots are frustrated by the lack of progress and management’s unwillingness to wholeheartedly engage in the process mediated by the National Mediation Board. Direct negotiations began in February 2006 and mediated negotiations began in February 2007, yet all the major sections of the contract, including compensation, remain unresolved.
TSA pilots have endured a substandard contract for more than eight years, with pay 7% to 23% below that of other pilots at airlines of comparable size providing comparable service. This substandard pay is particularly insulting because Trans States is among the most profitable airlines and is the fifth largest in the regional industry. “Many pilots at TSA are side-stepping to better-paying airlines or leaving the industry altogether,” said Capt. Jason Ruszin, chairman of the TSA unit of ALPA. “Our substandard contract, pay and work rules have ruined morale and are driving good pilots elsewhere.”
“TSA’s customers, competitors and code-share partners should be outraged at TSA management’s unprofessional behavior, given the uncertainty an open contract places on a carrier and all those who interact with it. We want to get this contract done, not only to secure the livelihoods of TSA pilots and other company employees, but to ensure that TSA can effectively compete for additional growth opportunities.” TSA is a code share partner for United Airlines, American Airlines and US Airways.
It is abundantly clear to pilots that TSA management is deliberately dragging out negotiations. TSA management repeatedly makes proposals that take away current benefits even though Trans States remains a profitable airline. “When management makes proposals that eliminate previously-agreed-to language or makes counterproposals in which the only change is the date on the proposal, we question whether TSA is making a good-faith attempt at bargaining,” said Ruszin.
While equal pay for equal work is a top contract goal, it is expected that another contentious section of the contract will be job security and scope protections. TSA pilots learned a hard lesson when Trans States Holdings, parent company of Trans States Airlines, abandoned any pretense of loyalty to its employees by creating an alter-ego airline called GoJet. The creation of this airline became a direct threat to the job security of TSA pilots. “We are committed to providing TSA with enough flexibility to compete in today’s industry, but we refuse to be slaves to endless whipsawing,” said Ruszin.
In response to TSA’s delay tactics, TSA pilots are moving forward with a strategic initiative designed to strengthen their preparedness in the event the two parties cannot come to an agreement. “We are prepared to do whatever it takes, consistent with the law, to achieve our contract goals,” said Ruszin.