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Hawaiian Airlines pilots setting stage for a strike


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POSTED: Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Unionized Hawaiian Airlines pilots say the clock is ticking.

The Air Line Pilots Association, which represents more than 400 Hawaiian Airlines pilots, says mediation with the company has stretched on for nearly 2 1/2 years.

If next week's federal mediation in Washington, D.C., does not bear fruit, the pilots union plans to start proceedings for a strike authorization vote. The group is gearing up with a strategic center, equipped with flight-tracking software, on the south ramp of Honolulu Airport.

“;We're serious,”; said Capt. Jeff Jones, communications chairman of ALPA's Hawaiian pilots group. “;This is one of the steps we see ourselves being forced into. We don't want to strike. Our past performance has shown we want to help, but now we're just looking to share some of the wealth.”;

The group says Hawaiian Airlines made more in the first half of this year than it did last year, while CEO Mark Dunkerley received a 41.5 percent raise in 2008.

“;Hawaiian Airlines is doing well because of the sacrifices its employees have made in the past,”; said Jones, who has flown 22 years for the company.

Hawaiian Airlines said it remains committed to making sure all of its employees are compensated well for the work they do.

“;Hawaiian's pilots have amongst the very best contracts and work rules in the industry and it is Hawaiian's belief that at the end of the negotiations this will continue to be the case,”; said the company's written statement.

Current negotiations are progressing under the National Mediation Board, the company said. “;Raising the specter now of actions that could damage the company and harm the community as the pilots' union leadership has suggested is both irresponsible and counterproductive.”;

But ALPA said other airlines — including Southwest and Mesa, which operates go! in Hawaii — have ratified new contracts and offered their pilots raises in the past eight months.

The Hawaiian pilots, who have not had a pay raise since 2007, said they are simply asking for a modest cost-of-living increase.

Hawaiian Airlines has offered a 1 percent pay increase a year over four years, but the group is asking for up to a 5 percent increase in the first year, with 4 percent in following years.

The group is also seeking an additional 2.5 percent increase to the pension plan for pilots under 50 years of age.

To hold a strike authorization vote, ALPA must ask the board to declare an impasse and release the pilots group from mediation.