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Pilots union wants American Airlines to implement contract provisions

Pilots gather for a photo with Doug Parker, left, then CEO of US Airways and Tom Horton, right, then CEO of American Airlines when the merger of the two carriers was announced on February 14, 2013. (Star-Telegram/Ron T. Ennis)
Pilots gather for a photo with Doug Parker, left, then CEO of US Airways and Tom Horton, right, then CEO of American Airlines when the merger of the two carriers was announced on February 14, 2013. (Star-Telegram/Ron T. Ennis) Star-Telegram/Ron T. Ennis

If leaders at American Airlines want to improve the company’s culture, then a contract with pilots approved last year should be implemented properly to provide benefits that were promised, the union’s president said Thursday.

In an interview with the Star-Telegram, Keith Wilson said pilots are concerned that several provisions including changes in how vacations are bid and paychecks are processed have yet to be implemented and may be forgotten as the company focuses on larger technology integration projects.

Wilson, president of the Allied Pilots Association, said the contract represents “the value we’ve negotiated” and should be implemented.

“When we get that implemented, that is the basis for then developing where we go with the culture,” he said.. “And we do want to develop a culture that is collaborative.”

Wilson, along with other union leaders, met with American’s chief executive Doug Parker on Monday to discuss contract implementation problems and ask what is being done to change the culture at the airline.

“It’s unclear at this point whether Mr. Parker views the pilot group’s involvement in reforming our airline’s culture as an essential ingredient, and we came away concerned about the lack of details provided,” the union told its members in a hotline message on Wednesday.

Last week, the pilots union sent a letter to Parker outlining its concerns of contractual abuses by the company, contending that a “toxic culture” is returning to American. Parker responded during public remarks made at an investor conference, acknowledging that front-line workers “still don’t trust us” and that managers need to do a better job engaging employees.

At Monday’s meeting, Parker designated Chief Operating Officer Robert Isom to work with the pilots union to fix contract issues. The union also requested that a plan be developed and sent to the union.

Wilson said the union recognizes that several provisions that have yet to be implemented are related to larger technology projects. However, he believes about 20 of them could be implemented this spring, including changing pay from once a month to twice a month as outlined in the contract.

American is in the process of integrating its flight operations systems for its pilots and flight attendants. The management team is focused on the $300 million project this year, spending 1.8 million work hours on information technology as it is combines 500 computer systems into a single flight operations system, said Elise Eberwein, American’s executive vice president of people and communications.

“All of us feel the pain of integration and we’re working really hard to stay on plan for integrating all of these issues,” Eberwein said. “I think it is very easy to revert to old behavior and old patterns of the past and we all should be challenging ourselves to approach problem-solving in a new way. The only way we go forward is if we work together.”

Andrea Ahles: 817-390-7631, @Sky_Talk

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