The relationship between Pinnacle Airlines and its pilot group turned from frosty to malevolent last month as the Memphis-based regional filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court against the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA). Pinnacle claims that bad-faith bargaining on the part of ALPA has unnecessarily stalled negotiations and resulted in the loss of 17 of its 50-seat jets and a chance to fly 76-seat jets for Northwest Airlines. “On another occasion, one new customer removed Pinnacle from consideration for 25 new regional jets,” said Pinnacle vice president and general manager Clive Seal.
Upon learning of the lawsuit, ALPA immediately fired back, claiming that management filed the suit in retaliation for the union’s request for binding arbitration from the National Mediation Board (NMB) the day before. “It’s the latest in a long line of attempts to put off the inevitable and to misrepresent where the real blame lies–with Pinnacle management–for the failure to achieve a fair contract after three very difficult years,” said Scott Erickson, chairman of ALPA’s Pinnacle unit.
Under Railway Labor Act rules, the NMB holds the option to extend to each party a proffer to arbitrate any remaining issues. If either declines the proffer, the NMB would release them from mediation and a 30-day “cooling-off” period begins. At the end of the 30 days, the pilots can legally call a strike.