Sky Talk

What pilot base reps are saying about American’s contract offer

Star-Telegram

As American Airlines 14,000 pilots get ready to vote on a new contract, their base representatives have been giving their opinions on management’s latest offer.

Of the base blasts that have been sent in to Sky Talk, they all express some disappointment in American’s management and how they have handled the negotiations contract process with the pilots.

“On one hand, they are proud to tell everyone they run the largest, most profitable airline on the globe, and on the other, they refuse to compensate their pilots for their extended down time spent at hotels like they did for America West pilots in 2004 and continue to do today. Same management, unspeakably huge profits, but insistent on making you spend time away from family uncompensated,” wrote the Philadelphia base chair in a message to pilots.

The Allied Pilots Association board is scheduled to meet on Wednesday to approve final contract language and begin the electronic voting process.

Here’s a look at some of the base blasts.

DFW UPDATE

3 January 2015

The APA Board of Directors has spent the last two days working on bringing this JCBA process to a conclusion. Given management’s demand that APA “accept” their proposal by 3 January, we fully expected that management would have the contract language intended to implement their demands ready for us to review and send to the membership. APA’s negotiating team has worked long hours through the Christmas/New Year holiday and we had a substantial portion of the contract language available to us.

However, the language that would implement the company’s demand that we allow them to combine International and Domestic divisions has not yet been finalized. Combining divisions is a complex and far reaching change that must be done properly to protect seniority rights and to ensure that pilots will have full access to the potential benefits of combined divisions. There is no way the membership can make a judgment on the impact of management’s plan to merge divisions without knowing the details of the language intended to govern that process. Management’s failure to have language ready to implement their own demand has made meeting their unilaterally imposed deadlines impossible to meet.

Following a long and complex process spread over two days, the APA Board approved a resolution accepting management’s proposal-in-principle, and agreeing to act to electronically ballot the membership. However, that process cannot begin until agreement is reached on the currently unfinished contract language. The Board committed itself to being bound by the vote of the membership when it occurs.

We understand that you have a LOT of questions and the story of the last two days is a tale worth hearing. We knew there was a possibility of an active voting process beginning this week, so we had pre-reserved the Grapevine Conventions Center for Monday (5 January) beginning at 1100.

Even though we do not yet have an active voting process, we feel it is still important to provide a forum to explain what took place over the last 2 days, to provide you as much detail as is available on the proposal, and to give you as much information as we have regarding the process going forward.

We understand this is short notice, but given how important this process is to all of you, we did not want to delay providing information first hand. Please join us at 1100 on Monday.

DCA Base Blast

Fellow Washington Pilots,

Carl was right. I was wrong. I apologize.

I told you that Mr. Parker and Mr. Kirby were different, that we could trust them, that the culture would change and that we’d enjoy a better relationship with new management.

While the merger has brought us a stronger and more viable airline that will survive any future turmoil, I was completely wrong about the nature of our new management team and the culture change that I hoped would result.

We’ve made every effort to negotiate improvements to your contract. No significant progress has been made since the company made their “work from our term sheet” offers in mid Nov.

In an effort to meet the company’s deadline and in an effort to capture the retroactive pay we negotiated in exchange for giving management an extension of the deadline for JCBA talks, we reduced our asks to one item, a fix to long layovers that pay little and result in flying 20+ days a month. The company refused this simple and relatively low cost fix (called the “long rate rig”) that is already in the America West contract.

The company rejected it.

DO NOT ASSSUME that because the BOD sends a TA to you for a vote that it is an endorsement of the TA.

There are several different reasons for sending a TA to you for a vote, including the APA ‘s governing documents. I anticipate that each BOD member will explain his reasons for voting in the coming days.

Unfortunately, the company failed to be prepared to meet their own Jan 3. deadline and we could not get the contract finalized last week. The last piece of the contract to be negotiated is the elimination of the Intl/Dom fence. Although it is management’s demand, they had no proposal prepared. Management apparently had put no thought into how complex such a change would be and how many areas of the contract would be affected. Their timeline for writing contract language and approval of the language was simply unrealistic.

We now expect to have the contract complete this Wednesday.

The BOD will return to DFW on Tuesday evening. Assuming the contract language is final and there are no problems with it, we expect to begin mailing out PINs for electronic voting soon. We expect to have domicile meetings, road shows and possibly telephone town hall conference calls prior to and during the voting period.

Fly Safe.

LGA Base Blast

JUST ANOTHER COST UNIT

Mssrs. Parker and Kirby have defined the New Culture at the New American. I voted against LBFO3 (JCBA). If you have any self respect and are tired of getting kicked in the crotch by the same old management types, VOTE NO. If you like the offer, VOTE YES.

In Unity.

PHL Base Blast

Dear PHL Pilots,

The APA board met last week to address the company’s Dec. 23, 2014, JCBA proposal. After two days of debate, the BOD voted 18-4 (PHL voted yes) to approve in principle the company’s Dec. 23 proposal and to ballot the membership after an agreement on final language.

Day 1 was mostly spent working on strategy for how to approach management’s latest “take it or leave it” offer. While there are several things less than satisfactory in the proposal, the BOD was unanimous in their focus on improving the pitiful 11-hour three-day pairings, and we will acknowledge we were extremely pleased with the tenor of the meeting and the way the board came together in an attempt to address this important issue. The result was a vote (18-4) that we were willing to forego membership ratification, with an immediate board approval (contingent upon acceptance of final contract language), if the company agreed to address the 11-hour three-day problem.

And it wouldn’t have required much on their part. What the BOD proposed was based on the West’s “long-rate rig,” something that not only has been used in PHX for the entire duration of their current contract but also was already agreed to by this same management team in joint East-West negotiations. As such, we had every expectation that this would be acceptable to management. Furthermore, we believed that by proposing one very important QOL issue in return for immediate BOD ratification, we were not only being reasonable but also providing the company with an opportunity to finally put their oft-touted “new corporate culture” on display.

Unfortunately, and true to their history, the company just said no and refused to offer any alternate solution to remedy this significant QOL problem. They said their analysis showed the additional rig to be too costly and completely disregarded our own cost analysis as well as the fact that we showed them where they lacked understanding of their own West contract language. Scott Kirby also accused APA of changing the West language in our proposal, and while we’re not sure who is advising him, our proposed language was a direct lift from the West contract posted on Wings. The only thing altered was the 24-hour minimum duty break threshold that we lowered to 22 hours. This was done to capture certain pairings that would not have been covered by the new rig. However, this difference was not what Scott Kirby was referring to, and it was clearly explained to him by APA President Keith Wilson so he understood there was a change (24 hour break to 22 hour break) and, more importantly, why it was necessary. The bottom line was simple and abundantly reasonable: Pay us for three days when we are on a three-day trip.

But they refused, and to justify it, the company misleadingly “costed” our proposal based only on how the current pairings would trigger the new rig. Even more troubling, they acknowledge that the pairing optimizer would have “optimized around” the rig, resulting in different looking parings (more four-days, for example) — which would lower the cost of this QOL benefit — but they wouldn’t take that cost out of the analysis they cited in their refusal. It’s all very typical, very predictable behavior from this management and is sadly familiar to LUS pilots. On one hand, they are proud to tell everyone they run the largest, most profitable airline on the globe, and on the other, they refuse to compensate their pilots for their extended down time spent at hotels like they did for America West pilots in 2004 and continue to do today. Same management, unspeakably huge profits, but insistent on making you spend time away from family uncompensated.

Unlike Delta management, which apparently understands the benefit of addressing pilot concerns even if it has an adverse effect on the bottom line (last week, Delta management agreed to not outsource pilot jobs to partner Virgin), US Airways management just doesn’t have it in them to address our issues if it costs the company any amount of money. While we don’t know how much this recently negotiated job guarantee at Delta costs, we are willing to bet it is significantly greater than the cost of the rig to pay us three days for three days on the job.

It would have gone a long way in building a better relationship if Scott Kirby contacted APA and said something like, “I understand this is an important issue to pilots, and it’s just plain wrong for management to require pilots to work three days and get paid for only two. I know it’s going to result in higher costs, but I’m the president of the largest, most profitable airline in the world, and I’m going to do the right thing treat my pilots as such, value the time they spend away from their families, and agree to this new rig.” Instead, Scott Kirby chose to simply say no.

Scott, please reconsider your decision, it will go a long way in building a better relationship.

So, back in the real world, faced with management’s familiar “just say no” mentality, as well as an arbitrary deadline, the BOD had to decide whether to accept the original company offer and send it out for a membership vote after reviewing the final language or to say no thanks.

As you know, the company put two conditions on retro pay back to Dec. 2. One was acceptance by the board before Jan. 3, and the other was to have the unrealistic Jan. 19 pilot vote deadline. We were advised by APA President Keith Wilson that these dates were selected by management to ensure the voting will be completed before both the American and Delta 2014 annual financial results, which are expected to be extremely positive. In the end, the board did agree in principle to accept the Dec. 23 proposal. It will be sent to the pilots for a vote after BOD approval of the final language, which will be completed this week.

We believe Management still has an opportunity for a much improved culture. During a recent update we asked whether the company wanted 15,000 problem solvers or 15,000 pilots saying “solve your own problems.” We believe if management reconsidering its decision and adopts the proposed long rate rig it will go a long way in attaining 15,000 problem solvers and truly position American Airlines much closer to “Great”.

Road shows are tentatively scheduled during the weeks of Jan. 12 and 19. Look for details later this week.

As you can imagine, the last several weeks have been time-consuming and demanding. Please understand that we read/listen to all of your emails, Sound Offs and VM’s. Just because we haven’t responded to all of them doesn’t mean we don’t take your opinions seriously because we certainly do.

Thanks for the continued support.

In unity.

PHX Base Blast

Dear Phoenix Pilots,

On Nov. 16, we published an update titled What Legacy Will Parker Leave. We have remained almost totally silent since then as negotiations with the company continued in the closeout phase during which multiple negotiating session were held. In addition, numerous BOD meetings were held during this time, nearly all of which were in closed session, which severely constrained our ability to report on the content of those meetings. Throughout this period of limited communications and high anxiety for our pilots, Parker's legacy remained unknown. After last week's negotiations with the company and its rejection of APA's final (and very reasonable) counteroffer, we now have a far better idea of what that legacy will be. In our opinion, Parker's promise of a New Culture has been clearly revealed to be exactly what every last former America West pilot expected: totally hollow. Nobody from the US Airways side of this merger is surprised, but all are disappointed.

The APA BOD met on Friday and Saturday of last week to consider the company's Dec. 23 offer. That offer was a slight modification of its Nov. 11 proposal wherein the company offered aggregate pay (hourly rates only) exceeding that of Delta by approximately 3% in exchange for eight items it would be unlikely to achieve through the MOU arbitration process. The eight items became seven a few days later once the company wisely removed its regressive and totally unacceptable SCOPE proposal. After much debate, the APA BOD sent a counterproposal to the company on Dec. 17, to which the company responded with the rejection of all items APA proposed and a proffer of arbitration, albeit with a pay increase of 4% for the pilots (as well as many other work groups) on Dec. 23. The company, in keeping with its longstanding practice, bypassed your association when making that offer by publishing it on Wings concurrent with advising APA of the company's position. The Dec. 23 offer included an onerous provision for the association requiring that APA accept the offer no later than Jan. 3 in order to secure retroactive pay since Dec. 2, 2014. Accommodating this requirement would necessitate the association waiving policy and rushing any ratification process.

Once the meeting convened, the BOD expected to review finalized contractual language, which was not yet available from the company (more than seven weeks after its November proposal was made). This was preposterous in light of Kirby's demand that APA accept his deal by the 3rdof January, contractual language sight-unseen. Nonetheless, given the broader terms of the deal, the BOD was determined to work together and decide what final must have item it would need in order to waive the necessary policies to accept the company's proposal at the BOD level, thus forgoing the delay and uncertainties of pilot ratification for the company. It was decided to offer the West contract's Long Rate rig language in exchange for the BOD-only ratification (with the rig adjusted to trigger at 22 hours instead of 24 hours), which would require that any layover of 22 hours or longer be treated as a duty period for pay purposes, paying the duty period average of 5:10 credit. It must be noted that similar provisions exist at nearly every other major airline.

Late Saturday afternoon, we had our answer from management and the answer to our question about what legacy Parker would leave when management rejected our proposal. This last item may seem inconsequential to Parker and Kirby today, but it clearly reveals how it was simply hollow, soothing talk they offered to APA when they went around AA management (and USAPA, for that matter) in the spring of 2012 to gain the support of the pilots of American for their merger. It is well established that part of earning that support came by way of repeated statements like, When we make Delta money, you'll make Delta pay. Both AWA and US Airways pilots had heard similar statements for many years. No doubt today they would explain this fallacy by stating that these promises all contained an asterisk, and an asterisk makes no sound when spoken. Management would tell us, therefore, that the misunderstanding must be on our part, and we should never have had any expectation of earning similar total compensation or even the same minimum amount for each day we are away from our families. The very definition of rate of pay is the money you make doing something divided by the time it takes: A Delta pilot is assured three days' pay for three days away, while an AA pilot is not. Our company is unwilling to recognize this distinction, no matter how elementary and obvious it may be. This, too, must have been covered by that invisible asterisk. Management's rationalization of this position must be based on either apathy, ignorance, arrogance or perhaps a combination of the three. Whatever the cause, it illustrates near complete detachment from the real needs of our pilots and their families.

As former AWA pilots, allow us to expound as to why: While Contract 2004 was supposedly constrained by ATSB loan restrictions, which limited the rates of pay the company could offer, those alleged constraints did not limit other areas of the contract. As a result, with the exception of pay rates, the contract was actually industry-leading in most areas, as should have been the case for one of the few major airlines that avoided bankruptcy after 9/11 and quickly returned to a trajectory of sustained growth and hiring following the brief furloughs from late 2001 to early 2002. Pilots from other airlines were usually surprised to discover that both reserve and line-holder pilots were guaranteed at least 12 or 13 days off per month (and our months were the ACTUAL months, not months rejiggered to ease peak travel months for the company), while being guaranteed 77 or 78 hours. But, thanks to our Long Rate rig and 5:15 per duty period minimum average, the typical line would have 84 hours with 14 or 15 days off. Pilots could even earn as much as 99 hours without fewer than 12 days off without too much effort. AWA pilots were rarely penalized for inefficiencies of the company's schedules, while the company was forced to work hard to maximize productivity. It was a win-win situation most of the time. But now, with the imposition of a barely modified Green Book (which itself was gutted through bankruptcy), those few remaining schedule benefits will be lost as well. It's inconceivable to think that those provisions didn't bankrupt AWA but are now too costly for the worlds largest and likely most profitable airline.

West pilots overwhelmingly supported the MOU and merger for several reasons, one of which was the fact that it contained a process designed to marry the best sections from the three contracts, therefore preserving a high likelihood that some of these scheduling provisions would be adopted. That process was called the JCBA, but very little progress was actually made as far as the association was concerned because New American management strongly preferred the recently gutted Green Book over anything from the West contract and had no incentive to actually agree to any changes as management was supported by the cost neutral arbitration paragraph of the MOU. We should have known better than to expect any real progress.

Now that the company has rejected this rig, West pilots can expect significant degradation of what precious little time we have with our families. It is critical to note how this will be true whether or not the JCBA is ratified because the Green Book is steadily marching toward us and will overtake the remnants of Contract 2004 in the not-too-distant future. You are already seeing some of this by way of the reserve guarantee reductions imposed on us beginning Jan. 1 (over your APA representatives' strenuous objections and contrary to our understanding that schedule changes would be implemented all at once with the new PBS). New American imposed a significant pay cut to reserve pilots while simultaneously including a massive increase to the number of pilots on reserve. A win-win (for the company) and a lose-lose for AWA pilots. Welcome to our new culture.

This is just the beginning because we have absolutely no assurance from the company that it won't overlay (impose) the new rigs from the Green Book on our existing flying before integration. So, we could remain on our island of Group II (and a handful of Group III) airplanes, suffering this further detriment without the mitigating factor of access to other opportunities enjoyed by all other pilots of New American. The net effect, rather than the 23% raise touted by Kirby in his Dec. 23 letter, will be a 10% cut for our many two-duty-period, three-day trips, (or three-duty-period, four-day trips), which will now pay only two days a third less or three days a quarter less (offset somewhat by the raise). That, friends, appears to be what Parker, Kirby and New American are really all about: the optics for those on the outside, especially Wall Street. New or even improved culture is a laughable concept in the eyes of our PHX pilots as we've been assigned nothing but the liabilities from the last merger, and now it appears this one too. At least we're no longer alone in our dim view and skepticism of management as it seems the rest of the BOD has begun to catch on.

This last little item: A duty rig similar to what PHX has enjoyed for more than a decade was simply too much for management, and the negative response amounts to a failed litmus test as far as we're concerned. We had hoped things truly would be different but now think its probably too late for management to recover from this misstep. And it may be too late to salvage relations with its pilots throughout the system.

We want to offer a friendly reminder to help navigate the land of confusion we find ourselves in during this period of assimilation into New American. The charts you need come from many locations but are not impossible to find. The main governing document is currently called the MTA (for Merger Transition Agreement). This is the AA 2012 Green Book in transition. It is located on your company iPad, in the e-librarian, under the Miscellaneous tab. It can also be found near the bottom-right portion of the Flight Operations page on the Wings website, as can Contract 2004. Contract 2004 has not yet been entirely superseded, so it must be referenced on occasion (particularly when it comes to scheduling issues). Some of these documents are also available on the APA home page under the APA Kitbag tab. Also of vital importance on the APA website is the APA Negotiations tab near the upper-left side of the home page. We hope you find these resources helpful and welcome your calls if you are unable to find what you are looking for. If we don't know the answer, we can probably point you in the right direction.

We will again be at APA headquarters this week for another BOD meeting beginning Wednesday. It is our plan to approve the final contractual language related to the JCBA (once it is final produced by the company and hammered out with the Negotiating Committee) as well as devise a plan for the compressed ratification process. Once this is determined, we will attempt to schedule a domicile meeting or two in the coming weeks and will look forward to seeing you there. We have another 44 membership applications awaiting your approval at the domicile meeting. Standby for more information.

Thank you for your patience and support,

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