Monday, August 29, 2011

Time to Tune In

A letter to the APA pilots:

Shortly after taking office last year, I initiated the process of locating and hiring professional consultants to augment APA’s team in our bargaining efforts. After evaluating a number of professional negotiator candidates, it became clear that APA needed someone with experience working within the Railway Labor Act (RLA) and with pilot unions. As you may recall, several years ago APA attempted to hire a professional negotiator, who left after only a few weeks due to the difficulty of working within the political environment at APA. It soon became clear that the pool of appropriate candidates was exceedingly shallow.

Before hiring International Pilot Services Corporation (IPSC) Director Seth Rosen, I considered other candidates. None had experience negotiating under the RLA. They also charged considerably more and did not have access to the same depth of resources as Mr. Rosen. As a highly experienced labor lawyer, Mr. Rosen has spent decades working with pilot unions—a challenging undertaking during the best of times. His daily rate is in line with what other labor lawyers command and comparable to what APA pays for outside legal counsel.

My pursuit of a suitable individual led to discussions with the ALPA president, culminating in a number of meetings last fall. A team of five from APA, including National Officers and representatives from our Negotiating Committee, Board of Directors and staff, met with a larger contingent of officers from ALPA.

Given that pilot pay, benefits and working conditions are largely determined by pattern bargaining, the pilots at United, Continental, Delta and elsewhere are watching our
negotiations closely. It is critically important to them that APA is successful in our bargaining efforts to raise the bar for them to follow.

This initiative ultimately resulted in a first-ever service agreement between the two unions. Among other things, this agreement specified that both parties would provide mutual support and cooperation. ALPA’s financial interest in this arrangement is to recover the costs of providing its services. All members of the APA Board of Directors were supplied copies of the agreement.

Without rehashing recent events, the ALPA leadership was left with the impression that their efforts on our behalf were not welcomed. To be clear, Mr. Rosen and ALPA’s Economic & Financial Analysis personnel have been enormously helpful to APA’s bargaining efforts. When I was notified that the ALPA leadership was intending to execute the cancellation clause in the service agreement, I immediately began steps to mitigate the potential damage and called a voting conference call of the APA Board of Directors. I also notified the membership of this development.

I subsequently had several face-to-face meetings with the ALPA leadership at their headquarters in Washington, D.C. to discuss the value of continuing the service agreement, and also spoke with the union leaders at some of their larger member carriers. The ALPA leadership agreed to a six-month extension of the service agreement contingent on the APA Board of Directors' interest in continuing to work collaboratively. During APA’s special Board meeting this week, I am pleased to report the majority of the APA Board of Directors signed a letter affirming APA’s desire to continue a collaborative relationship via the service agreement.

We are approaching the end game in negotiations. It’s now time for the pilots to begin “tuning in.” It’s been clear from the very beginning that scope and pay would be the most contentious issues and those usually saved for last. Last week we began discussions on scope.

In the coming weeks and months, we will be communicating with all of you with much greater frequency as bargaining intensifies. In turn, please continue to provide me with feedback through SoundOff messages. Your input is extremely valuable as I work to represent your interests.
Thanks for your continuing support. 

APA President Captain Dave Bates 

As we said, we don't expect the DPA to say anything nice about this.