Reporting Jack Fink
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The pilots union accuses executives from American’s owner, Fort Worth-based AMR Corporation, of trying to derail consensual merger talks by dragging their heels. ”American is being intransigent at the bargaining table. They clearly do not want to see this process result in a merger inside of bankruptcy if, for no other reason that it’s a threat to 20 or so senior executives’ jobs and their potential cash out,” says Tom Hoban with the Allied Pilots Association.
Hoban says AMR’s CEO Tom Horton and his team aren’t cooperating. “US Air pilots are on-board, US Air management is on board. You got three out of four that have pretty much come to an agreement, and we’re going to have to wait and see what American management does.”
In a statement, an American Airlines spokesman says the company is taking a hard look at what’s best for all involved saying, “…We invited the unions to join the discussions in order to properly evaluate the labor issues that would be involved…”
The accusation comes as the union faces its own accusations by some pilots. There are a growing number of American pilots who say the union is trying to rush the merger at the expense of their seniority.
That group of pilots believe American should only consider a merger after bankruptcy. “We think the smarter thing to do is to take our time emerge from bankruptcy, start this on an even footing,” says pilot Chris Manno.
Manno says he and a growing number of pilots want to wait until after American leaves bankruptcy to consider a merger so they could negotiate pilot seniority. “These bums rush they’re giving us now without any representation is just foolish and it’s just rash.”
He says 50 pilots have signed onto their new website opposing the merger, and says another 150 pilots support the cause, but are afraid to sign their names.
The union rejects that. “We refer this type of thing as a fear grenade. You’ve got 50 or so pilots out of 8,000 here who are working on behalf of AA management to really torpedo this merger process,” says Hoban.
Manno prefers how Southwest Airlines handled the issue when it purchased Air Tran. Southwest had the pilots of both airlines agree on seniority before the merger.
American though, isn’t doing that.
Hoban of the pilots union says an interim agreement that’s reached between the pilots and management at both airlines would protect the pilots’ seniority.
That would mean it wouldn’t happen until after American emerges as a stand alone airline.
But Manno strongly disagrees. “That’s absolutely not true because up front we don’t care who the CEO is… That has nothing to do with it. What we’re doing is raising the warning flag and people are responding to it and seniority is at stake here.”
If the groups reach an agreement, pilots say the two airlines can merge while in bankruptcy. American management has said it prefers to emerge from bankruptcy as a stand alone airline.
It’s widely reported that American’s board of directors will meet January 9 to consider a merger.
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