Bloomberg News

US Airways Sues Pilot Union to Halt Alleged Illegal Slowdown

July 29, 2011

(Updates with Railway Labor Act in fifth paragraph.)

July 29 (Bloomberg) -- US Airways Group Inc. sued its pilots union, seeking a court order to halt an alleged illegal slowdown the carrier says is disrupting its operations in Charlotte, North Carolina, and other East Coast hubs.

The US Airline Pilots Association’s campaign is designed to cause flight delays and cancellations that will pressure US Airways in contract negotiations with the union, the carrier said in a complaint filed today in federal court in Charlotte.

“Today’s filing contains overwhelming evidence of illegal activity by USAPA including a consistent pattern of statements from the labor union’s leadership encouraging its members to slow down the operation,” Chief Executive Officer Doug Parker said in a memo to employees.

James Ray, a spokesman for the union, didn’t immediately return a call for comment on the filing.

Airline labor relations are governed by the Railway Labor Act, which makes it illegal for unions to strike or stage work slowdowns or sickouts unless they have been released from contract talks by the National Mediation Board. Work slowdowns have resulted in court orders prohibiting employees from taking part in such actions and in fines against unions.

US Airways has been unable to negotiate a single contract covering its pilots since the 2005 merger of America West Holdings Corp. and US Airways because of disagreements over how the pilots from the carriers should be placed on a merged seniority list.

Two Contracts

Pilots that flew for the stand-alone US Airways are concentrated in the eastern U.S., while former America West pilots operate primarily in the west. The two pilot groups continue to operate under separate contracts with different pay rates and work and scheduling rules.

United Airlines won an appeals court ruling in March 2009 barring pilots from a work slowdown that led to 329 canceled flights over two months. The United pilots union testified that an increased number of sick calls during that period was “purely a coincidence” and not a coordinated effort.

In February 1999, American Airlines pilots called in sick over 11 days to protest plans to add pilots from Reno Air Inc. to their seniority list. American was forced to cancel 6,600 flights, costing parent AMR Corp. $250 million and snarling U.S. air traffic. A federal judge later ordered the Allied Pilots Association to pay American $45.5 million in damages.

The case is US Airways v. US Airline Pilots Association, 11-00371, U.S. District Court, Western District of North Carolina (Charlotte.)

--Editor: Mary Romano, Andrew Dunn

To contact the reporters on this story: Edvard Pettersson in Los Angeles at epettersson@bloomberg.net; Mary Schlangenstein in Dallas at maryc.s@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net; Ed Dufner at edufner@bloomberg.net.


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