Mesaba Airlines and the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) reached a tentative agreement on a new contract last month for the airline’s 844 pilots, averting a threatened strike by a matter of hours. ALPA and Mesaba had engaged in negotiations since June 2001 to no avail, prompting the National Mediation Board to call an impasse and a 30-day “cooling off period,” after which the pilots could have legally walked off the job. Mesaba resumed nearly full operations on January 11 after canceling all its flights one day earlier.
The new contract reportedly improves pilot pay and work rules to a level comparable with those at Comair, whose pilots negotiated a new contract in June 2001 that ranks among the most lucrative in the regional airline industry. Under the terms of a concessionary contract struck in 1996, Mesaba’s pilots drew salaries starting at $17,000 a year and rising to $24,000 after three years. Seniormost Avro RJ captains earned $85,000 a year. Another issue remained the airline’s refusal to discuss merging the pilot groups at Mesaba and fellow subsidiary Big Sky Airlines, whose non-unionized flight crews, according to ALPA, created a threat to its members’ job security.