ALPA: Continental, United Pilots encounter roadblock to merger

25-Jun-2010 The pilots of United and Continental, represented by the Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l (ALPA) say they have run into a roadblock while negotiating a transition agreement with the management of United and Continental Airlines.

The transition agreement is an important first step in the process that is designed to ultimately result in a joint collective bargaining agreement (JCBA) and integrated seniority list. Reaching an integrated seniority list allows the new merged carrier to secure a single operating certificate and reap the full potential of the merger.

“It is unbelievable that contract talks have stalled so early in the process and for such a basic item as a transition agreement,” said Capt. Jay Pierce, Chairman of the Continental pilots unit of ALPA. “We are stalled because of management’s unwillingness to compromise on matters that have little financial impact. We have heard the recent statements by Jeff Smisek, proclaiming the virtues of the upcoming merger, touting the benefits coming to labor because of the expected synergies and promising to work with labor in good faith to complete our contracts. However, if this is an indication of management’s approach, I have serious doubts about how long it will be before any of the touted synergies can be achieved.”

Capt. Wendy Morse, Chairman for the United pilots, said, “As I’ve consistently said, there is a right path and a wrong path. This merger could be simple if the right path is chosen. Regrettably it appears the companies at this early juncture are headed down the wrong path. Obviously, allowing talks to stall over non-economic issues shows that management is once again choosing the wrong path. Failure by management to choose the right path will lead to very predictable results; results that will not attain anywhere near the forecasted synergies that are being touted about this transaction. Both Mr. Tilton and Mr. Smisek stated recently before Congress the importance of recognizing labor in this deal. At this juncture, their words ring hollow.”

Capt. Pierce added, “Since the merger announcement on May 3, I have expressed my opinion that it was possible to reach a joint collective bargaining agreement by this fall, predicated on the willingness of management to expeditiously recognize and reward the contributions of pilots to the ultimate success of the merger. As I have said before, this merger can provide many opportunities. Those opportunities cannot be achieved if management refuses to return to the table to negotiate in good faith. We have done our part and are ready and willing to continue work toward a transition agreement that meets the needs of both sides.”

“Fortunately, management has time to correct this misstep in the merger process,” added Capt. Morse. “But time is of the essence to show the employees and the world that this merger will be successful. Management still has the opportunity to recognize the value pilots bring to this process, and it will be necessary they correct this in a timely manner. Success requires that management continue to focus on getting past these initial issues and allow us to move forward with the Joint Collective Bargaining process.”