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Pilots at United picket for higher pay as pressure builds before summer travel season

Pilots at United picket for higher pay as pressure builds before summer travel season

DETROIT (AP) — In an effort to demand more compensation, pilots from one of the country’s largest airlines protested in picket lines at significant airports on Friday, just before of what might be a record-breaking summer travel season.

While attempting to reach an agreement with airline management over a new contract, the United Airlines pilots have been working without a pay increase for more than four years.

But a strike by the pilots is unlikely to happen soon. The last strike at an American airline took place more than ten years ago, and federal legislation makes it exceedingly difficult for unions to carry out walkouts in the aviation sector.

Following resounding strikes authorization votes by pilots at American Airlines and Southwest Airlines, United pilots have launched nationwide demonstrations. According to union leaders, the next group to vote may be United pilots.

All three airlines’ pilots are aiming to equal or surpass the agreement that Delta Air Lines and its pilots achieved earlier this year, which increased pay rates by 34% over four years.

The top pay at United for a captain is $369 per hour on two-aisle aircraft, or “widebodies,” which are typically used for international flights, and $297 per hour on “narrowbodies” like Boeing 737s. According to the Labour Department, airline pilots fly 75 hours a month on average.

Although United has promised to match the Delta increase, a deal may not be possible with that proposal alone.

Garth Thompson, chair of the United wing of the Air Line Pilots Association, stated that there was still more work to be done in order to overcome some of the concerns on the table.

Thompson said that the two parties’ negotiations on scheduling, especially the union’s desire to restrict United’s power to force pilots to work on their days off, had prevented them from discussing salaries.

A spokesperson for United, Joshua Freed, stated, “We’re continuing to work with the Air Line Pilots Association on the industry-leading deal we have put on the table for our world-class pilots.”

According to the pilots, United should give them a bonus for saving the airline from the coronavirus epidemic.

Pilot Arzu Delp protested at San Francisco International Airport. “We made quite a few sacrifices during the pandemic, and we feel that it is now time for the company to step up and to give us a contract, acknowledging the sacrifices and the contributions that we have made,” he said.

The United pilots’ starting point is the Delta deal, which will cost Delta $7.2 billion over four years. According to Blaise Waguespack, an instructor of airline management and marketing at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, all airlines are struggling with increased labour expenses, which may be reflected in the cost of a ticket. However, supply and demand also affect ticket prices.

Airlines are generating a lot of money, according to Giselle Ascione, a United customer in San Francisco, and “the pilots as well as the attendants should be paid.” Common sense says it.

Strikes are unlikely in the coming months, when millions of Americans plan to fly for their summer vacation, even if the airlines and their unions are unable to rapidly come to an agreement. U.S. law prohibits airline and railway employees from going on strike or being locked out until federal mediators rule that further discussions are useless.

Even when the National Mediation Board does, there is a “cooling-off” period during which the White House and Congress can prevent a strike from taking place. Bill Clinton acted in this manner shortly after pilots in 1997 started striking against American. The prospect of a walkout was eliminated in December when President Joe Biden signed legislation enacted by Congress imposing contract terms on freight railway workers.

Spirit Airlines was the site of the most recent strike at a U.S. airline in 2010.

The United union president Thompson promised that his pilots “will continue to work in 2023” despite obstacles including a “aggressive” summer flying schedule.

Over the years, airline employees have engaged in labour actions that didn’t amount to strikes but nonetheless interfered with flights. Although the sum was eventually lowered, a federal judge fined the American Airlines pilots’ union $45 million for a 1999 sickout that severely hampered the airline’s operations. A federal court ordered American’s aeroplane mechanic unions to end what the airline described as an unlawful labour halt in 2019.

Congress would not approve an airline strike due to the potential economic damage, according to Arthur Wheaton, head of labour studies at Cornell University, but disgruntled pilots might still cause problems in other ways.

“They constantly believe in the rule of labour. They may respond, ‘We’re not working any overtime,'” Wheaton said. The capacity to do that can be a negotiation strategy. “I don’t anticipate the pilots trying to intentionally muck up travel for everyone,” the negotiator said.

Because companies rely on finding pilots and flight attendants to pick up extra hours during seasons of high travel demand, airlines are susceptible to work-to-rule demonstrations.

Despite the legal obstacles to a walkout, strike ballots have grown in popularity because unions think they provide them negotiating power. Additionally, a lack of pilots gives those unions an advantage in negotiations.

About 14,000 pilots work for Chicago-based United, and the union anticipates that at least 2,000 of them will protest on Friday at 10 airports from Newark, New Jersey, to Los Angeles. Additionally, the union is circulating pamphlets that emphasise the pilots’ demand for improved scheduling that balances work and life, but leave out any discussion of compensation.

Source: hindustantimes

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