After more than five years of negotiations for a new labor agreement with Kalitta Air, LLC, the cargo airline based in Ypsilanti, Michigan, the union representing its pilots and flight engineers informed the National Mediation Board (NMB) that further mediation efforts would be fruitless and counterproductive.
Kalitta Air operates a fleet of Boeing 747 aircraft in support of the global network of DHL Express, a division of the German logistics company, Deutsche Post DHL and other customers. Crew members, represented by the Airline Professionals Association (APA) Teamsters Local 1224, are preparing for a strike.
In a letter to the NMB last week, the Teamsters requested that the agency make a so-called proffer of arbitration to the union and Kalitta Air. Under the Railway Labor Act, if the agency proffers arbitration and both parties accept it, then all disputed contract terms are submitted to binding arbitration for resolution. If either party rejects the proffer, then the NMB must place the parties in a 30-day cooling off period. During the cooling off period, the NMB typically engages in intensive mediation efforts in a final attempt to avoid a work stoppage. Absent intervention by the president ofthe United States, a union is free to strike at the end of the cooling off period.
“We have reached an impasse in negotiations,” said Scott Nelson, the elected chairman of the APA Teamsters Local 1224 Kalitta Air Executive Council. “The union has made it clear that we have compromised as far as we can to reach an agreement and that our last proposal was, in fact, final. Yet, Kalitta Air has remained inflexible in its position.”
On May 12, negotiators representing the union and the company met with a federal mediator in St. Louis. The Teamsters offered a compromise proposal to resolve all outstanding issues. After receiving the proposal, Kalitta Air’s management team left the negotiations site without responding to the union’s proposal or the courtesy of notifying union negotiators that they were returning toMichigan rather than returning to the negotiating session.
“Their actions speak volumes as to why we have been unable to reach an agreement on an amended contract in more than five years of negotiations,” Nelson said. “It is clear that they are intentionally trying to delay reaching a contract.”
In December, 97 percent of the Kalitta pilots and flight engineers voted to authorize the union to call a strike. According to a recent survey, nearly 90 percent of Kalitta Air pilots would not recommend the airline to other pilots as a good place to build a career.
In May, the pilots overwhelmingly passed a resolution of “no confidence” in management, which stated: “The management of Kalitta Air, by and through their poor judgment, bad labor relations decisions, disrespect for union representatives and contempt for line pilots, has tarnished the good reputation of Kalitta Air.” The resolution also accused management of “undermining the ability of Kalitta Air to attract and retain quality pilots in an increasingly tight labor market.”
“The pilots and flight engineers are fed up,” said Daniel C. Wells, President of Teamsters Local 1224. “We have long believed that Kalitta Air’s management team would rather provoke a strike than resolve differences at the bargaining table, regardless of the impact it would have on families and customers. By all appearances, our suspicions are being confirmed.”