It hasn’t even been two years since American Airlines agreed on a new contract with their pilots union. Now it appears the issue of pilot pay is back in the news.
Less than two years after signing a new contract that included a 23 percent raise, American Airlines’ pilots union warned Wednesday that compensation is falling behind industry rivals like Southwest and called on management to find ways to close the gap.
“When they see their neighbor down the street from Southwest making 20 percent more … doing essentially the exact same job and they’re home more days, it grates on them,” said Allied Pilots Association president Capt. Dan Carey, who was elected to the post in July.
If I were in top management at an airline, this would frustrate me immensely. The union president is essentially saying that because another airline gave their pilots raises, American should adjust their current agreement to match those raises:
American said it has no plans to reopen the current contract, although Carey framed the union’s request as a “mid-term adjustment” rather than a full-scale renegotiation.
“Our approach is to provide industry-leading pay when contracts are signed,” American spokesman Matt Miller said. “When other airline pilot groups negotiate increases following our pilot contract ratification, that’s good news to our team. When contracts become amendable and we open the bargaining process, those types of pay increases will follow.”
Aren’t Contracts, Well, Binding Agreements?
Well, yes. That’s what a company should do. I understand that other airlines have given their pilots raises. But, by and large those occurred during the negotiation of their next contract. If American pilots wanted larger pay increases, they had the opportunity to negotiate for that before they signed the current contract. They also had the option to sign a shorter contract. All of these factors should have been part of the union’s decision-making at the time. I’m fairly certain management thought through these permutations.
Look, it’s not like I think AA management is crushing it right now. On-time arrivals continue to suffer though appear to be improving. But, I think it’s reasonable to consider that a contract probably shouldn’t need to be renegotiated less than halfway through its duration.
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