Holding signs saying “We stand united for a contract,” hundreds of Southwest Airlines pilots stood silently outside of Dallas Love Field on Wednesday.
The Southwest Airlines Pilots Association, which represents the Dallas-based carrier’s 8,300 pilots, held the informational picket to bring attention to its current contract negotiations which have lasted for almost four years.
“It’s time to bring a contract home for our pilot group,” SWAPA vice president Captain Mike Panebianco said. “We’d like to see a compensation package that would reward us for the ability of Southwest to make the money that they’re making and do so well in the industry.”
In November, pilots rejected a proposed four-year contract that included pay raises totaling 17.6 percent and created subsets for international and Boeing 737-MAX flying. The vote was 62 percent against the deal. Following the rejection, union president Capt. Paul Jackson resigned.
Panebianco said pilots felt the value of the contract fell short and were concerned about Southwest’s request to expand interline agreements that would allow Southwest to sell tickets to its passengers on other airlines.
$536 million Southwest Airlines profits in the fourth quarter
Southwest said it was disappointed when pilots voted down the tentative agreement last fall and has not met for negotiation meetings since then.
“Until talks resume, we have limited insight into what SWAPA’s new leadership is seeking or what they hope to accomplish with informational picketing,” said Craig Drew, Southwest’s senior vice president of air operations. “Their demonstration does not change our steadfast commitment and 45-year history of serving our employees and customers.”
The company said both sides met separately with federal mediators on Tuesday and negotiations meetings are scheduled for late March.
Southwest reported record profits in 2015 as it carried more passengers with its new service at Dallas Love Field and Washington Reagan National Airport. It nearly tripled its net income as it earned $536 million in the fourth quarter with revenues increasing 7.5 percent to $4.97 billion.
The pilots’ existing contract has been amendable since September 1, 2012. The two sides entered federal mediation in 2014 as they had been unable to reach an agreement on pay, retirement, scheduling and job scope issues.
Southwest is currently in contract talks with several different labor groups. In 2015, it reached a proposed contract with its flight attendants’ union, but the flight attendants overwhelming rejected the proposal. Its ground workers union is currently voting on a tentative agreement.