(NATIONWIDE) — Pilots who fly for Southern Air, a subsidiary of Atlas Worldwide Holdings (NASDAQ: AAWW), announced today they have reached a tentative Letter of Agreement (LOA) that is intended to improve working conditions, wages and benefits for the Southern pilots. The LOA which will be voted on from July 25 to August 9, raises some standards at Southern Air — after two and a half years of stalled negotiations because of AAWW litigation — to be on par with those of pilots at AAWW-owned Atlas Air who are working under their own substandard, seven-year-old amalgamated contract. Pilots at both airlines are represented by their union, the Airline Pilots Association, Teamsters Local 1224.
The LOA provides some temporary relief for the pilots who were forced to negotiate their contract with Southern Air during bankruptcy. As a result, Southern Air–which flies exclusively for DHL–has been unable to attract and retain pilots.
“Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings is finally acknowledging the full-blown staffing crisis at Southern Air that we’ve been raising concerns about,” said Captain Bryan Holmberg, a veteran pilot at Southern Air and the Southern Air Executive Council Chairman at APA Teamsters Local 1224. “We want to better serve the airline and the many customers across the globe who rely on our work, but to do so we need to stop the rapid turnover and hire pilots to meet DHL’s ever-growing demands.”
Pilots say they doubt this LOA can stem the tide on a shrinking pilot force and improve the overall working conditions enough to recruit crews that are necessary to grow the company as promised by AAWW executives. They say that years of failed recruiting efforts by AAWW using the same collective bargaining agreement (CBA) for the Atlas Pilots has proven that it is not adequate to attract and retain pilots in the current market place.
“Signing this LOA is a long overdue improvement for Southern’s pilots,” said Captain Daniel Wells, an Atlas Air pilot and president of Teamsters Local 1224. “This interim agreement does not resolve the fact that Southern Air and the pilots are still in negotiations to conclude a new Collective Bargaining Agreement and still in litigation with AAWW. AAWW is facing many issues under essentially the same contract with Atlas pilots, and with this LOA Southern Air will still face the same struggles with hiring and retention that Atlas Air currently does. If AAWW wants to grow its business, it needs to plan for pilots’ long-term success and negotiate fair, industry-standard contracts across its carriers.”