Pilots of Southern Air and sister carrier Atlas Air must combine their seniority lists as part of labour negotiations following a decision by a third-party arbitrator, the latest development in a three-and-a-half-year dispute between pilots and management.

The decision published on 26 August by arbitrator George Nicolau hands a victory to Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings, which owns both carriers. The Airline Professionals Association, Teamsters Local 1224, had refused to provide that seniority list for fear that it would harm their ability to negotiate a new joint collective bargaining agreement. By refusing to do so, the pilots' union have violated the terms of the existing collective bargaining agreement following Atlas Air Worldwide's acquisition of Southern in 2016, Nicolau says in his decision.

A separate arbitration decision between the New York-based cargo carrier and the union, published in June, ordered Southern pilots to negotiate a new joint collective bargaining agreement.

The union opposes mediation of its dispute through a third-party arbitrator, which it says harms its negotiating position, according to a statement from Robert Kirchner, a retired Atlas pilot who is executive council chairman for Teamsters Local 1224. Kirchner says the union "will pursue all remaining legal options to avoid a contract that is resolved by an arbitrator".

"Pilots have witnessed a short-sighted litigation war that's caused their faith in management to deteriorate completely," he says.

Atlas Air Worldwide chief executive William Flynn has blamed the union for delaying a new agreement and not following provisions in collective bargaining agreements in place when the merger was announced in 2016.

“It is time for our hardworking crew of over 2,000 Atlas Air and Southern Air pilots to receive a new, competitive contract with enhanced pay and benefits," Flynn says in a statement on 26 August. "The recent decisions by the arbitrators have made clear that the existing collective bargaining agreements provide the appropriate path for the merger and should have been followed.”

The US Court of Appeals in Washington, DC, in a ruling on 5 July, also ordered pilots for Atlas and Polar Air Cargo to halt what it ruled was a deliberate attempt by the union to slow down work to gain leverage for contract negotiations.

Pilots for Atlas fly cargo for clients including Amazon, the US military and DHL Express. Amazon has expressed concern about the ongoing labor dispute between pilots under the Atlas umbrella of airlines because "neither side seems willing to work towards a reasonable compromise".

Source: Cirium Dashboard