Union asks court to force Aloha cargo unit buyer to retain pilots
Pilots are scheduled to vote on whether to authorize a strike if a deal isn't reached
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Aloha Airlines' pilots union is asking U.S. Bankruptcy Court to make the sale of the company's cargo unit contingent upon the buyer retaining the unit's pilots.
The pilots are slated to vote this morning on whether to authorize a strike against Aloha, which carries 85 percent of the state's air cargo, as well as all U.S. Mail to Maui and the Big Island.
Meanwhile, the auction of the profitable cargo division is expected to be delayed until next week, according to two people familiar with the process.
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The Air Line Pilots Association is seeking a court order to make the sale of Aloha Airlines
' cargo unit contingent upon the buyer retaining the company's cargo pilots -- who meanwhile are slated to vote this morning on whether to authorize a strike.
A dispute between the union and the company over the profitable cargo operation has been ongoing since Aloha abruptly shut down passenger operations on March 31.
The union said its pilots are scheduled to meet at 7:30 a.m. today to discuss and conduct a strike authorization vote.
ALPA said in a motion asking the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction, that if the pilots vote to authorize a strike, the union may strike any or all of Aloha's operations at any time thereafter if an agreement is not reached with the company. ALPA previously had said in its complaint filed last Friday that it may strike at 12:01 a.m. this Saturday unless an agreement is reached.
ALPA said it requested a hearing in Bankruptcy Court for 10 a.m. tomorrow on the motion. The request had not yet been approved by late yesterday.
Aloha said it would oppose the motion.
"It is unfortunate that ALPA is threatening to disrupt cargo operations that are critical to the flow of goods throughout our state," the company said yesterday.
The cargo unit, which has 400 employees, carries 85 percent of the state's air cargo, as well as all U.S. Mail to Maui and the Big Island.
Aloha's auction of the cargo division remained in limbo yesterday, one day after the leading bidder, Seattle-based Saltchuk Resources Inc., walked out of the auction. Saltchuk, however, still remains an interested bidder, according to two people familiar with the process.
The auction and hearing will be pushed back to next week, those sources said.
Saltchuk, the parent company of interisland shipper Young Brothers Ltd., had offered $18 million, including about $5 million for Aloha's accounts receivable. But a move by Aloha's primary lender, General Motors Acceptance Corp., prompted Saltchuk to walk. It is uncertain whether GMAC required that the opening bid be set at $20 million or whether GMAC made a $20 million bid itself, according to people familiar with the situation.
Meanwhile, a hearing to approve Aloha's sale of its contract aviation services division to Los Angeles-based Pacific Air Cargo will go on as scheduled tomorrow in the Northern District of California federal Bankruptcy Court in Oakland before Chief Judge Randall Newsome. Pacific Air Cargo's bid on Monday was $2.05 million, according to a person familiar with the auction. Evergreen Aviation Ground Logistics Enterprises, based in McMinnville, Ore., was the second-highest bidder at $2 million, the source said.
Aloha's contract services unit, which employs 1,050 people, handles ground operations for other airlines, such as ticketing and assisting passengers; baggage handling; directing planes to the gate; and cleaning the aircraft.
ALPA, which filed the motion for the TRO and injunction on Monday, last Friday filed a complaint asserting that the company had failed to adhere to the pilots' collective-bargaining agreement and had triggered a "major dispute" under the Railway Labor Act, which governs airline contract negotiations.
The pilots union said Aloha had terminated pilots out of seniority order, recalled pilots out of seniority order, failed to respect job security provisions that require a prospective purchaser to employ the current pilots in seniority order, terminated the pilots' health plan, and failed to provide furlough pay and benefits, among other things.
"Our contract specifically outlines the steps that must be taken to protect pilot jobs, said Capt. John Prater, president of ALPA. "Aloha management signed this agreement with the pilots, and ALPA is prepared to do whatever is necessary to see that Aloha management adheres to the contract and our pilots' jobs are preserved."