American Airlines pilots, protesting at what they see as slow contract negotiations, have added complaints about security to those about safety.

While safety concerns are common in labour-management negotiations and often come up as contract talks stall, security is a new issue. But Allied Pilots Association (APA) vice-president Robert Ames says that the union, which represents all American Airlines pilots, has serious concerns about the commitment of the airline and of its chief executive Don Carty to security.

Responding to recent speeches by Carty, including one he had made just minutes earlier to the National Press Club in Washington, Ames questioned Carty's commitment to security, as Carty keeps complaining that security procedures and rules are inconveniencing passengers and costing American money. The airline's culture, Ames says, clearly does not favour security. He alleges that Carty has not met any American union representatives to discuss security or safety in more than a year, and that American management has been non-responsive to the APA's concerns.

"We repeatedly extend the olive branch; we try to work with the management team, but it's been difficult to get co-operation on safety. American's accident rate is abysmal," Ames says.

Carty refuses to question the pilots' motives in raising the issue and will not link it to the bargaining process. Ames insists he is not trying to persuade passengers to book away from American. He is based in Miami, where a group of American pilots has been vocal in calling for the grounding of American's Airbus A300-600 fleet since one of the aircraft crashed on take-off from New York JFK last November.

"We'd like to say that American is the safest airline, but our record shows that we're not," he says, referring to the A300 crash and the union's long-running dispute with American and the Federal Aviation Administration over pilot duty-hour limitations.

A mediator has recently been appointed to hasten APA's contract talks. Ames notes that "pay has not even been discussed" at the bargaining table.

Source: Airline Business