HONOLULU, HI – Aloha pilots voted on Wednesday night to give its local leadership, the Aloha Airlines Master Executive Council (MEC) of the Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l (ALPA), the right to call a strike, if and when it becomes absolutely necessary.
“A strike is the last thing we want and we will exhaust every opportunity — negotiating with management, using federal mediators, going through bankruptcy court facilitation – to avoid calling a strike. We’re simply asking, just like our contract now provides, that management makes sure that Aloha pilots continue to fly our airplanes if the cargo division is sold to a new operator,” said Aloha MEC Chairman David Bird. Ninety percent of those eligible pilots attending a special meeting voted to authorize the strike.
The vote comes just days after ALPA filed a complaint in U.S. Bankruptcy Court seeking injunctive relief against Aloha Airlines management for repudiating the pilots’ collective bargaining agreement since it filed for bankruptcy in March.
“We’re tired of management painting us as the bad guys. David Banmiller (president and CEO of Aloha Airlines) is still getting paid and no doubt will seek big bonuses, too. Our pilots were terminated out of the blue and haven’t received the contract-required furlough pay, retirement contributions, or medical coverage,” said Capt. John Riddel, MEC secretary-treasurer. “Over the past three years, we approved pay cuts, relinquished our retirement plan, and provided other concessions to ensure this company’s survival. We just want to keep our jobs if the company is sold,” Riddel continued.
Aloha filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy on March 20, 2008, and abruptly ceased its passenger service on March 31 after 61 years of service. Aloha continues to operate its cargo service, which it is preparing to sell. ALPA has been trying to negotiate with management to provide a smooth transition before, during, and after the sale of the cargo division, but Aloha management has not responded to an April 7 proposal.
“Another week has passed during which we have tried to work with Aloha management to negotiate a compromise that recognizes the pilots’ contract and provides a successful sale of the cargo operations,” said Capt. Bird. “But with no results and no progress made, management’s refusal to comply with the existing contract is forcing us to prepare to take this drastic step.”
“Aloha pilots are saddened at what has happened on our property during the past few weeks,” Bird added, “but we won’t walk away from the contract we negotiated with this management team including their earlier promise to make sure that we transferred with the cargo operation to a new owner.”
ALPA asserts that the company continues to ignore the pilots’ contract by terminating pilots out of seniority order, recalling pilots out of seniority order, failing to respect job security provisions that require a prospective purchaser to employ the current pilots in seniority order, terminating the pilots’ health plan, and failing to provide furlough pay and benefits, among other actions.
Founded in 1931, ALPA is the world’s largest pilot union, representing more than 56,000 pilots at 41 airlines in the U.S. and Canada, including more than 300 pilots at Aloha.