Bid to settle labor dispute
Aloha Air, pilots meet with federal mediatators
STORY SUMMARY »
Aloha Airlines and representatives of the Air Line Pilots Association met separately with two federal mediators yesterday in a bid to settle a contentious labor dispute before a hearing on federal court orders that each side is seeking against the other.
Ninety percent of those eligible Aloha pilots who attended a special meeting Wednesday night voted to authorize a strike if the pilots union cannot reach an agreement with the company.
Aloha handles 85 percent of Hawaii's air cargo, as well as all U.S. Mail to Maui and the Big Island.
FULL STORY »
and its pilots union met separately with two federal mediators yesterday in an attempt to resolve a contentious labor stalemate ahead of a federal Bankruptcy Court hearing today on temporary restraining orders and preliminary injunctions that each side is seeking against the other.
Ninety percent of those eligible Aloha pilots who attended a special meeting Wednesday night voted to authorize a strike if the Air Line Pilots Association cannot reach an agreement with the company.
Aloha has been seeking buyers for all its assets since shutting down passenger operations on March 31.
Earlier yesterday, Los Angeles-based Pacific Air Cargo won approval from federal Bankruptcy Judge Randall Newsome in Oakland, Calif., to purchase Aloha's aviation contract services unit for $2.05 million, plus accounts receivable. The deal is set to close May 5 following a 10-day period in which objections can be lodged.
Pacific Air Cargo Chief Executive Beti Ward could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Randy Kauhane, assistant general chairman of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, District Lodge 141, said yesterday the union hasn't heard from representatives of Pacific Air Cargo about its plans for the 1,050-employee unit.
The contract services unit handles ground operations for other airlines, such as ticketing and assisting passengers; baggage handling; directing planes to the gate; and cleaning aircraft.
ALPA, meanwhile, has threatened to strike any or all of Aloha's remaining cargo operations without a labor agreement. If the pilots do go out on strike, it would be the first such job action by Aloha in the company's 61-year history. It also would send ripples through the state economy, since Aloha handles 85 percent of Hawaii's air cargo, as well as all U.S. Mail to Maui and the Big Island.
"We're hopeful," said ALPA attorney John Dean, a senior contract administrator based in San Francisco. "At least there's communication now. Up until now, there hasn't been any since we gave them a proposal on April 7."
Two representatives from the Washington, D.C.-based National Mediation Board already had been scheduled to be in Honolulu for airline negotiation training with various employee groups at Hawaiian Airlines. They agreed to meet with the company and ALPA to see if they can help settle a dispute involving the pilots' collective-bargaining agreement. The National Mediation Board oversees labor relations in the airline and railroad industries.
Dean said he wouldn't anticipate any possible job action until after today's 2 p.m. hearing.
"We remain hopeful there won't have to be a strike," he said.
With the pilots having authorized a strike, it is now up to the three-member Master Executive Council of Aloha's pilots union to determine whether one should be called. The members are David Bird, chairman; William Westerveldt, vice chairman and John Riddel, secretary-treasurer. If they decide on a work stoppage, the final determination then would be made by John Prater, president of ALPA's national organization.
Only about 40 cargo pilots remain in the 400-employee cargo division. Nearly 300 pilots lost their jobs following the shutdown of passenger operations.
The pilots are threatening to strike because they said Aloha has refused to adhere to a provision in ALPA's collective-bargaining agreement that requires any new buyer to retain Aloha's pilots, in seniority order, if the assets are sold.
Aloha says there is nothing in the agreement requiring that. The company is seeking a TRO and preliminary injunction against the cargo pilots to prevent them from striking or engaging in any disruptive work action.
ALPA is seeking a TRO and preliminary injunction to make any sale of Aloha's cargo operations contingent upon the buyer retaining the union's pilots.