Sunday, March 18, 2001

Comair vs. pilots: at a glance

        • The dispute: The company's contract with its 1,350 pilots came open for negotiations in June 1998, and talks have been continuing. The National Mediation Board took over the negotiations in August 1999.

        The two sides have been in federal court twice in the past two years, with a federal judge issuing an injunction in December 1999 against the pilots union, saying the pilots were conducting an illegal work action by canceling flights for minor mechanical reasons.

        • The issues: Pilots are seeking more pay, a company-funded pension plan and better work rules. Currently, a senior captain flying a Canadair Regional Jet makes about $67,000 a year.

        In addition, Comair pilots are upset that Delta — in negotiations with its pilots — said it would put limits on the number and size of planes at Comair and other Delta Connection carriers.

        Management says its most recent proposal would make pilots the highest-paid in the regional airline industry and includes a company-funded pension plan. The new proposal would boost senior captain pay to about $96,000 annually.

        • The vote: The pilots today end their vote on the company's latest contract offer. The vote is part of an agreement with federal mediators that also started the 30-day countdown toward a possible strike.

        The union's leaders were given a choice to either endorse the proposal or present it to the entire pilot group “neutrally.” They declined to endorse it, and industry experts say that means the deal probably will not be approved.

        • The deadline: The end of the 30-day cooling-off period is March 25, meaning that if no agreement has been reached, the two sides could seek “self-help” at 12:01 a.m. March 26. For pilots, that means they legally could strike, and it means the company could lock the pilots out or impose its own work rules.

        The only thing that could stop a strike at that point would be a decision by President Bush to appoint an emergency board, which he could do if the mediation board recommends the action.


— James Pilcher

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