Southern Air pilots ratify agreement on pay but say workplace issues remain

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Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings today said pilots employed by its subsidiary Southern Air have ratified an agreement between Southern Air and Local 1224 of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) for interim enhancements to the collective bargaining agreement between the parties.

The deal increases pay rates for Southern Air pilots to the same wage scales as provided to pilots of Atlas Air. It also provides for a ratification bonus and other terms and conditions that are comparable to those provided to their colleagues at Atlas Air.

Atlas Air president and chief operating officer, John W. Dietric said: “We are pleased to enter into this agreement to benefit our Southern Air pilots, and we appreciate the hard work and commitment of the IBT during the entire process.

“We look forward to continuing our collaborative and productive discussions with the IBT leadership as we proceed toward the merger of Atlas Air and Southern Air and the completion of a joint collective bargaining agreement covering all of our pilots.”

The expected financial and operating impacts of the tentative agreement in 2018 were incorporated in Atlas Air Worldwide’s earnings growth framework announced on 2 August, 2018. The company anticipates that its full-year 2018 adjusted net income will grow by 45 to 50 per cent compared with 2017.

The Local 1224 of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters union said even with these improvements their collective bargaining agreement remains “open and amendable” – and has been so since 6 November, 2016, adding “bargaining to amend the agreement will therefore continue”.

The union said Southern Air pilots have been working under a contract that was forced upon them in 2012, while Southern was in bankruptcy. Since then, the airline, which flies exclusively for DHL – has been “unable to adequately attract and retain a sufficient number of pilots to sustain its operations”.

The agreement was ratified by the Southern Air membership by a 94.76 per cent margin and the union said it will raise some standards at Southern Air to be on par with those of pilots at Atlas Air, who are “working under their own substandard, seven-year-old contract that was imposed on them by an arbitrator”.

“While the LOA is an improvement from the dismal wages and provisions imposed during Southern’s bankruptcy, pilots say it doesn’t go far enough and that implementation will be too slow – with some important scheduling improvements taking effect only after nine months,” the union said.

Southern Air executive council chairman at APA Teamsters Local 1224, Captain Bryan Holmberg said: “For too long, Southern Air pilots have been operating under one of the worst contracts in the industry.

“While the Southern agreement no longer stands alone as the worst, we are on par with our Atlas brothers and sisters, joining them in what is now the low-bar agreement in the industry. The company still has a long way to go until it will be able to end the rapid turnover and have the capability to attract the new hire pilots we need to meet growing customer demands.”