Atlas Air’s contract with its pilots goes to arbitration

Atlas Air Pilots issued this statement:

Atlas Air pilots and the company’s management head into the final showdown on March 17 of a five-year battle for a new collective bargaining agreement. For the next two weeks, an arbitrator will listen to contract proposals from the pilots and management and then impose a contract that will decide the long-term future of the airline.


The pilots will present their case for a contract that is close to industry standards, while the company is expected to propose a contract that keeps pilot wages and benefits far below other cargo carriers. Industry insiders say that no matter what the arbitrator decides, the final outcome may have a negative long-term impact on the airline and its pilots.


“Atlas Air’s leadership team has squandered the past few years of growth, created discord with a key employee group, and has now surrendered its future to a third-party arbitrator.” said Robert Kirchner, head of the International Aviation Professionals (IAP), Teamsters Local 2750, the union that represents the pilots.


“This is a clear abdication of leadership,” said Kirchner. “We may now know the reason they provided no insights about the company’s future during the recent quarterly reporting to shareholders. They are no longer making decisions on key issues. Every stakeholder should be concerned that management is wiping their hands of responsibility.”


According to people sitting at the bargaining table, Atlas Air managers are likely to claim again that they don’t have the money to compensate their pilots adequately and that they will go bankrupt if they have to the pay wages and benefits that are comparable to what most of the industry pays. At the same time, these same Atlas executives have been making millions selling off Atlas stock that was part of their compensation packages.


“For the past five years, the company has delayed and gone to court to avoid negotiating seriously,” said Kirchner. “Atlas managers have refused to schedule more than four days per month for contract negotiations and then they have only showed up for a few hours and were disinterested and unprepared to negotiate.  All the while we have consistently offered to negotiate around the clock, any time and any place.”


“Atlas leadership has built up such frustration and anger in their most important employee group that morale is at an all-time low and attrition is extremely high, which costs Atlas millions in recruitment, training and missed flight opportunities. If we keep going in the same direction, Atlas will remain the training academy for UPS, FedEx and the rest of the airline industry,” said Kirchner.
No matter the outcome of arbitration, Atlas Air management has created a no-win situation for investors and the future of the airline. If the arbitration goes in the company’s favor, workforce discontent will soar.” said Kirchner. “You can’t grow an airline with high turnover and low morale of pilots.”


“Atlas continues to wage a battle with the people who fly planes, generate profits and make oversized executive compensation packages possible,” said Kirchner. “For five years, Atlas executives have squandered opportunities to reach a reasonable agreement through direct, good-faith negotiations and are now turning to arbitration to take responsibility for leadership out of the hands of the team that’s paid to lead.”

Atlas Air aircraft photo gallery:

Atlas Air aircraft slide show: