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nw320driver 11-22-2005 06:56 AM

Pilots Run Out of Patience With Pay Cuts
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Northwest and Delta pilots have agreed to more than $1.2 billion in pay cuts over the last year and they're willing to give more. But talk of strikes this week from pilots at both bankrupt carriers signaled that they're running out of patience with demands to work for less.

Both carriers have continued flying while they reorganize in bankruptcy court, and a strike could kill them. Delta Air Lines Inc. called a strike a "murder-suicide" that would eliminate every job at the company. It also said a pilots' strike would be illegal.

Finances are precarious at both airlines -- giving pilots more power than usual at the bargaining table. But pilots have more to lose, too, because their pensions would be reduced dramatically in a federal bailout if the airlines liquidate.

Mark McClain, chairman of the Northwest Airlines Corp. branch of the Air Line Pilots Association, agreed that pilot strikes at either carrier probably would be a murder-suicide. But that doesn't mean pilots wouldn't do it.

"Is it a real threat? Yes it is," McClain said on Friday.

The tough talk is a shift for both groups. Delta pilots have never struck. Northwest pilots have walked out five times since 1960, including in 1998, when McClain was on the negotiating committee. But more recently, Northwest pilots alone offered concessions while other workers resisted, agreeing to a 15 percent pay cut last year that saved the company $265 million a year. McClain even publicly called on other unions to do the same.

Northwest pilots are especially irked over the carrier's threat to start a subsidiary running smaller jets flown by pilots who would be paid much less than Northwest ALPA pilots.

"We've been championing the cause of saving Northwest Airlines, and management wants to pay us back by outsourcing a third of our jobs," McClain said.

He said pilots are college-educated, highly trained professionals who have already seen their wages rolled back to where they were 30 years ago. Northwest pilots now make between roughly $60,000 to $160,000 per year, the union said. First-year pilots make less, but they've all been laid off.

"Management seems to think that we'll do anything to get to fly airplanes, and that's a serious mistake and assumption on their part."

Northwest spokesman Kurt Ebenhoch said the Chapter 11 filing shows that the airline needs the labor cost savings.

Both airlines asked a judge for permission to throw out pilot contracts. Northwest pilots agreed to a temporary 24 percent pay cut to buy more time for negotiations. The extension runs out in mid-January.

A hearing on Delta's request to cancel its pilot contract will resume Nov. 28. The carrier's pilots have threatened to strike if that happens.

Delta pilots took a 32.5 percent pay cut last year, and the company wants another 19 percent now, said Kelly Collins, spokeswoman for the Delta unit of ALPA.

"We're in the mode of self-defense now that the (contract motion) has been filed against us," she said, "and we will use all legal means to defend our contract, and we will not willingly work without a contract."

A Delta spokesman did not immediately return a phone message from The Associated Press.

Legal experts said it's not clear whether the law would allow pilots to strike if their contracts are thrown out. Delta said it would ask a judge to halt a strike.

There have been close calls -- most recently when ground workers at United Airlines threatened to strike if a bankruptcy judge threw out their contract. A deal averted a strike there.

"We've come to the brink of it several times in the past, but it's never actually come to fruition," said Neil Bernstein, a law professor who tracks airlines at Washington University in St. Louis.

He said unions have two choices when the airlines threaten to throw out their contracts in bankruptcy court.

"One is to say 'Pretty please don't do it.' The other is to say, 'If you do it you'll be sorry,'" he said. "I don't know a union that's ever said 'Pretty please.'"

Lowell Peterson, a bankruptcy attorney who has worked on airline cases, says he believes such a strike would be legal, though he agreed that it's not a settled question. With bankrupt employers pushing so hard for pay cuts, he predicted more walkouts.

"I wouldn't be surprised to see some strikes. Not because people really want to, but because there's nothing left," he said.

John Budd, a labor relations professor at the University of Minnesota who watches airlines closely, said unions chafe at the airlines' ability to have their contracts thrown out in bankruptcy court.

"That goes against everything unions worked toward and everything unions are about, which is negotiating and avoiding the unilateral imposition of terms. The talk about a strike reflects that frustration."

Fools & Horses 11-22-2005 01:26 PM

What is an hour of your time worth?
I think the bottom line is, everyone needs to ask themselves what is an hour of their time worth to them. Probably, the pilots at Northwest and Delta have given some consideration to that question. I asked myself that in 2003, and decided my time was worth more than the "C scale" pay American was willing to pay me. The people at Delta and Northwest have had over two years to save some bucks (if they were senior), or to make plans to switch carriers. You don't want to be the last in line to divert or else you'll find yourself number 15 or 20 to be fueled, if there is any fuel left.

7ER Pilot 11-22-2005 04:33 PM


Originally Posted by Fools & Horses
I think the bottom line is, everyone needs to ask themselves what is an hour of their time worth to them. .

Probably the best time to ask that is to a customer after an engine fire or gear failure!

Fools & Horses 11-23-2005 03:11 AM

You got it!

corl737 11-23-2005 01:56 PM


Originally Posted by 7ER Pilot
Probably the best time to ask that is to a customer after an engine fire or gear failure!

If only we could manage to get a few more "made for TV emergencies" like the jetBlue nosegear incident at LAX then the public would scream that we are truly underpaid heros and clamor for higher ticket prices!

Looks like the fault for lowering pilot wages should be laid on the backs of
1) aircraft manufacturers who have learned to produce a reliable product and
2) aircraft maintenance folks who prevent minor malfunctions from becoming massive failures.

nw320driver 11-23-2005 02:04 PM

Great! Lets break some sh*t.......

Double Digit 12-11-2005 10:54 AM

Careful! Didn't one of your pilots spend some time in jail for threatening something like that?

Just a joke! Relax

shaark92 12-13-2005 05:22 AM


Originally Posted by corl737
If only we could manage to get a few more "made for TV emergencies" like the jetBlue nosegear incident at LAX then the public would scream that we are truly underpaid heros and clamor for higher ticket prices!

don't kid yourself. The worst commercial aviation atrocity in our history resulted in a 6 month decrease in appreciable passenger traffic.

I don't think there's ever gonna be ANY public clamoring for pilots to get restored payrates.

Only when there is education for those who aspire to become a major airline pilot realize selling their low-time ticket for $20/hour to a 121 operator results in the stagnation (plummet) of the profession will this ever begin to recover.

Until then ... don't use those dasderdly rudders <tic>

If you're an aspiring major airline pilot ... get your experience w/o going 121. You'll be doing yourself a huge favor. If you're a <2000 hour guy @ a 121 operation working for <$50 hour ... you'll do yourself a similar favor by finding another venue.

If you're <27.5 years old, drop me an email [email protected] I can offer you a few options.

Good luck to us all!


IronWalt 12-13-2005 12:06 PM

Lets be careful boys. It is an offense that can get your ticket lifted for life.

wmugrad05 11-15-2006 04:53 PM

Ever since management changed at Delta, they have been going down the crapper. They used to be such a solid airline and their pilots were the highest paid in the majors it's a real shame : (

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