ALPA pilots frustrated over pace of UnitedContinental talks

Washington DC
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United Airlines pilots are voicing impatience about what they consider management's slow approach to negotiating the first new contract since the airline emerged from bankruptcy and merged with Continental Airlines.

Talks between both sides on a joint collective bargaining agreement with United and Continental pilots started in February 2011 and passed a so-called "inflection point" on 1 January.

But disputes over scheduling issues have stopped any progress for several weeks, says Captain Jay Heppner, chairman of the United master executive council., writing to members on 24 March..

United's Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) chapter wants to complete a new contract in 2012, noting that Delta pilots are expected to earn more than $150 million collectively over the course of the year than United pilots.

The union complains that its members remain compensated under terms imposed under bankruptcy protection several years ago, even as the airline has grown more powerful by acquiring Continential.

But ALPA's negotiators have sensed a lack of urgency on the part of management in recent meetings. The union compared the pilots' plight to "starving to death in debtor's prison then being passed a stale slice of bread".

Heppner notes that the airline's negotiating team has committed to further negotiations over the next several weeks.

The union is not allowed to participate or support a work stoppage under a preliminary injunction, which remains in effect while negotiations continue.