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ALPA: Hawaiian stonewalling


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POSTED: Saturday, March 14, 2009

The president of the international Air Line Pilots Association says Hawaiian Airlines is stonewalling after nearly two years of contract negotiations and that the profitable carrier is taking advantage of pilot concessions given during the company's bankruptcy that ended in June 2005.

Capt. John Prater said yesterday that the two sides are still at issue over wages and retirement funding and that Hawaiian's pilots eventually could go on strike if no settlement is reached. He met with Gov. Linda Lingle and other state officials in Honolulu on Thursday to brief them on the status of negotiations.

“;(Hawaiian is) still living under what the bankruptcy judge gave them,”; Prater said. “;They paid everybody else off. They paid their creditors off. They paid their managers quite well. They expect us to work for a bankrupt company - no. This company has been doing OK. It has done a lot better and it can do even better. We don't want this thing to drag on and on because there will be a day of reckoning that we're trying to avoid.”;

ALPA's contract became amendable on June 30, 2007, and Hawaiian and the pilots union began negotiating in spring 2007 and started federal mediation in September 2008. The last scheduled mediation session is April 7-15. If no contract is achieved, then arbitration, a 30-day cooling-off period and a possible strike could follow.

Prater said ALPA has issued a $2 million grant out of its strike fund to prepare for a possible strike.

Hawaiian yesterday called ALPA's “;national office PR campaign”; an attempt to influence contract negotiations.

“;Hawaiian's pilots are among the best compensated in the industry, and their contract is among the least flexible of any in our industry,”; Hawaiian Senior Vice President Charles Nardello said. “;Their union's current position - especially during the worst recession in a generation while other carriers are laying off - has undermined our efforts to have constructive discussions.”;

Prater said Hawaiian is seeking a “;cost-neutral”; contract in which it has agreed to give wage increases in exchange for increased pilot expenses in other areas.

ALPA contract administrator John Dean, who accompanied Prater and Hawaiian ALPA Chairman Eric Sampson yesterday on a media blitz, said the union wants a “;modest”; cost-of-living adjustment.

Hawaiian recently reached tentative agreements with the clerical unit of the International Association of Machinists, as well as the Association of Flight Attendants.

The airline ended 2008 with a $28.6 million profit that included $52.5 million it received in a lawsuit settlement with go! parent Mesa Air Group. Hawaiian lost $11.9 million in the fourth quarter, but that included $16.1 million of a full-year $28.6 million income tax expense that was booked during the period.