American Airlines pilots say they are mystified that CEO Robert Isom publicly promised a Delta-level contract when the carrier had not made such a proposal to union negotiators. But with negotiations ongoing, the airline indicated a proposal is close.
“We look forward to reaching an agreement with APA (Allied Pilots Association) quickly so that American’s pilots can benefit from meaningful enhancements to their pay and quality of life,” American spokesman Gordon Johndroe said late Monday. “We believe a deal is within reach and can be negotiated expeditiously.” The two sides are negotiating this week.
In a message to members entitled “Offer, What Offer?” on Sunday night, officials of the Allied Pilots Association expressed concern that on Tuesday, Isom released a video saying American would match the Delta offer. Then on Sunday, APA said, “management took the unprecedented step of communicating directly with Congressional offices and others in Washington, D.C. regarding the content of the video.”
“To be clear, Robert Isom’s negotiating team has not made any offer to APA’s negotiating team containing pay, benefits, or the ‘significant improvements to scheduling-related and quality-of-life items’ referenced in his direct message to the pilots on Tuesday,” APA said Sunday.
“Offers are made at the bargaining table, not through videos to the membership or letters to Congress,” the union said.
APA spokesman Dennis Tajer said the union was surprised that Isom seemed to bypass its negotiators.
“Is this a nefarious attempt to bypass the union, or are they so disorganized that they forgot to pass us anything at the table?” Tajer said. “Going to Capitol Hill with an offer is unprecedented.
Johndroe declined to specify why American said publicly that it would match Delta before it said so in negotiations. However, it is likely American felt a need to address lingering concerns that it might not match Delta, even before it made a specific offer.
In American’s pilot contract talks, last week was a busy one for the two sides. It appeared that talks were on a fast track.
The tenor of pilot contract was altered on March 2, when Delta pilots signed a contract promising 34 percent raises and quality of life improvements. United and Southwest pilots are also engaged in contract talks.
Isom made his public offer on Tuesday March 7 in a video and a letter, when he said, “Let’s be clear. American is prepared to match Delta pay raises and provide American’s pilots with the same profit-sharing formula as Delta’s pilots.
“I want to ensure there is no question of our intent – that is, we want you to be paid as well as your peers. We want you to have the quality of life and benefits that matter most to you. And we don’t want you to have to wait.” Isom said
He said the total pay increase for American pilots would average 40 percent in the fourth year of the deal, which would cost the carrier $7 billion over the four-year period.
In response, APA committed to fast-pace negotiations. In a message to pilots, APA President Ed Sicher said, “Your negotiating committee and the company’s negotiating team have agreed to a disciplined and uninterrupted process through March to get a deal. That way, “come April 1st, we won’t be April Fools.”
On Thursday March 9, APA said it approved a strike authorization vote, scheduled to conclude April 30. “APA remains committed to reach an agreement with American Airlines management in the near term, but every APA pilot understands actions speak louder than words and we must prepare for any eventuality,” the union said in a prepared statement. Tajer said the scheduled vote was largely an effort to show that the union like the carrier is committed to a rapid conclusion of negotiations.
“We’ve been on record: we are encouraged by what Robert Isom is saying, by his commitment that quality of life issues are addressed,” Tajer said. “But now we’re concerned that there is a disconnect between the energy expended with the media and on Capitol Hill and the energy expended at the negotiating table.”