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Southwest pilots to vote on contract proposal

Southwest Airlines jets outside the updated Love Field terminal in Dallas, Texas. (Star-Telegram/Ron T. Ennis)
Southwest Airlines jets outside the updated Love Field terminal in Dallas, Texas. (Star-Telegram/Ron T. Ennis) Star-Telegram

Southwest Airlines’ pilots union have scheduled a vote on a new contract with the Dallas-based airline.

The Southwest Airlines’ Pilots Association, which represents the 8,000 pilots, said its board did not endorse or reject the tentative agreement but will send it out for a vote.

“Ultimately, the positives and negatives of any deal will affect the lives of our membership,” said SWAPA president Capt. Paul Jackson. “We believe it should be up to the members and their families to decide for themselves if this agreement meets their expectations.”

The tentative agreement runs through April 1, 2019 and includes pay raises and an increase in the company’s contribution toward retirement for pilots. The deal also includes pilot subsets for international and Boeing 737-MAX flying which the company requested.

“I am encouraged that the union’s board of directors has chosen to put this agreement in front of our pilots,” said Southwest vice president of flight operations Craig Drew. “Everyone on both sides of the table worked hard to fashion a contract that recognizes and rewards the steadfast professionalism of our pilots.”

The pilots’ contract has been amendable since September 1, 2012 and the two parties entered federal mediation last year as three years of negotiations had yet to result in a new agreement on pay, retirement, scheduling and job scope issues.

In May, the pilots union said it was funding a “strike preparedness committee” to help prepare pilots for the possibility of a strike. However, under the Railway Labor Act, airline unions are not allowed to strike unless federal mediators declare that the talks are at an impasse.

Southwest is currently in contract talks with seven different labor groups. Earlier this year, it reached a proposed contract with its flight attendants’ union, but the flight attendants overwhelming rejected the proposal.

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