Next to fighter jocks, helicopter pilots are probably the most iconoclastic flavor of aviators flying today. That’s why the issue of unionization can be so sensitive. Both Petroleum Helicopters Inc. and Air Log have unionized pilot workforces. Both made the transition in widely different ways.
The unions representing nearly 20,000 employees of the FAA have joined in a coalition “to hold the FAA accountable” for meeting its modernization goals and to improve working conditions at the agency. The coalition represents the largest group of organized employees at the FAA.
Pilots flying helicopters for the French hospitals’ emergency medical services went on strike twice recently to protest low wages and long hours. In response, the operators’ trade association, SNEH, said that it has already addressed the pilots’ highest-priority grievances. Early last month the pilots expressed confidence that negotiations were nearing completion.
After nine months of intense bargaining, NetJets’ unionized pilots (represented by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters) and management reached a tentative agreement (TA) on Saturday. The move comes four years after the pilots’ contract became amendable in October 2001.
In the late 1970s, Continental Airlines president Frank Lorenzo used a court of law to confront his pilots with an existing, although seldom used, negotiating technique, abrogating their contract when he was unable to secure an agreement through traditional collective bargaining. He quickly replaced his then striking workers with a non-union workforce willing to accept his management style and pay scale.
Union leaders expected by the end of last month to tally the votes for or against proposed new labor contracts at Mesaba Airlines, which finally managed to reach tentative agreements with its pilots, flight attendants and mechanics after more than a year of wrangling.
NetJets Europe pilots are preparing to establish trade union representation at the fractional ownership company. According to Teamsters union officials, a group of the European pilots is now evaluating four possible options for union representation and it expects to launch the new organization by year-end.
According to the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 1108, the union representing NetJets pilots, 93 percent of voting members have authorized a strike, should the National Mediation Board (NMB) release the group for self help. At present, the NMB has put contract negotiations between the NetJets’ pilots and management on hold, though the two groups are engaged in non-mediated bargaining sessions.
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