Southwest Airlines’ pilots union said it will fund and staff a “strike preparedness committee,” as it continues contract talks with the Dallas-based carrier.
The committee will work with outside consultants and union staff to help prepare pilots for the possibility of a strike, the union said.
However, under the Railway Labor Act, airline unions are not allowed to strike unless the National Mediation Board has declared that the talks are at an impasse and that the union can seek “self-help.” Without that authorization, the Southwest pilots are not allowed to strike.
“[The Southwest Airlines Pilots Association] is doing our due diligence to prepare our pilots and passengers for the next steps in this federal mediation process should we not be able to reach a deal” said union president Paul Jackson.
The pilots and Southwest management have been in contract talks for three years and are still discussing pay, retirement, scheduling and job scope issues.
Southwest is holding its annual shareholder meeting in Houston on Wednesday.
UPDATE: Here is Southwest’s statement in response to the pilots’ union creating a strike preparedness committee.
“We are aware of the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association’s (SWAPA) intent to form a strike preparedness committee. Customers of Southwest have no reason to change or be concerned about their travel plans.
“We are currently in National Mediation Board (NMB) mediation with SWAPA. These mediated sessions began in February 2015, and we are fully committed to continuing the mediation process with the hopes of rewarding our Pilots as we have done with other Southwest Employee groups.
“We have full faith in the mediation process. Both parties are under the authority of the NMB, and SWAPA would not be able to strike without the NMB releasing both parties from mediation.”