Flight Options pilots protest unfair contract negotiations

 - November 8, 2006, 6:57 AM

The union representing some 760 Flight Options pilots is charging that the Raytheon-owned fractional share company is engaging in a pattern of harassing and hostile behavior as both sides continue negotiations toward an initial contract. Under terms of the National Labor Relations Act those talks can continue through August 2007 before a strike could be called.

International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) Local 1108 was planning to publicly air its grievances here at NBAA through a series of informal media briefings and by flying a banner-tow aircraft over the static display yesterday and today at Orlando Executive Airport.  On March 2, 67 percent of Flight Options pilots approved union representation.

Representatives of Local 1108 are charging that Flight Options, the most unprofitable of all fractional share companies,  is enforcing a policy of forced vacations, 14-hour duty days, mandatory overtime, widespread layoffs and arbitrary pay cuts by forcing pilots into aircraft with lower compensation structures as the company consolidates its fleet offerings from 12 aircraft types to four. Flight Options also recently cut health care benefits, shifted crew lodging to lower quality hotels and cut the number of meals that could be reimbursed, according to the union.

Management is also threatening pilots who write up aircraft maintenance squawks with disciplinary action, according to Local 1108 president Bill Olsen. Olsen said the company rejected the union’s request to implement an interim grievance procedure while contract negotiations continue.

Local 1108 also represents 2,400 pilots at competing fractional share provider NetJets. Olsen said the union’s goal is to obtain a contract for Flight Options pilots that is “equal to or better than” the one it negotiated in October 2005 for the NetJets’ pilots. That contract raised wages an average of 40 percent and provides first-dollar health care coverage.

Flight Options spokeswoman Kate Barth declined to comment on the union’s charges. “Negotiations between Flight Options and the IBT began several months ago and are progressing,” Barth said.