US Airways upgrades offer to pilots Contract would exceed parity with rivals

union complains of loose ends Airlines


US Airways said yesterday that it has improved a contract offer to its pilots, promising higher compensation than its competitors provide, as well as job security. But pilots remain skeptical.

The airline made its offer Friday, upgrading a July offer that promised parity with competitive airlines. In the latest offer, the airline promised compensation -- including salary, benefits, financial returns and productivity -- at parity plus 1 percent of the average of the four larger airlines.

Pilots in a proposed low-fare, low-cost division would get parity plus 1 percent of the average compensation at Delta Express and Southwest.

Pilots displaced from mainline flying would get their existing salaries for 18 months, then parity plus 10 percent until growth enables them to reclaim their jobs.

The airline offered an employee representative on its board and a growth rate 20 percent higher than its competitors'. It also agreed to extend a guaranteed 4.5 percent pay increase if the airline is sold, and to limit its ability to transfer routes to other carriers.

In return, the airline wants a stepped-up approval process for the offer, with pilots committing to a ratification vote before Sept. 30.

The approval process has been a major sticking point for the US Airways chapter of the Air Line Pilots Association, which describes it as signing "a blank check."

The airline has a Sept. 30 deadline to confirm its order for what could potentially be the largest civilian aircraft order in history -- 120 Airbus jets, with an option for 280 more. The airline says it needs competitive costs in order to borrow money for the purchase.

Under the airline's proposal, pilots would ratify a contract, then select an independent third party -- either an accountant or an investment banker -- to ensure that specific contract terms do, in fact, achieve parity.

To alleviate the blank check concern, the airline said it would allow the union to determine details of how parity is reached, and would allow a neutral third party to annually review its compliance.

Jon Bryan, chairman of the US Airways ALPA chapter, objected yesterday, saying: "They want us to sign the shell of an agreement and submit undecided critical issues to an outside accounting firm for arbitration."

The union also called for appointment of a "facilitator" to help move along contract talks. Sources said that facilitator would come from the National Mediation Board.

But US Airways General Counsel Lawrence Nagin rejected the proposal.

"Any experienced facilitator knows there isn't time to get up to speed before the deadline is upon us and the Airbus order is lost," he said.

Nagin noted that Continental pilots took out a full-page ad in the Wall Street Journal, seeking parity with their competitors. "Even though Continental and Delta and UPS pilots seek parity, we have yet to hear from ALPA that they embrace the same concept at US Airways," he said.

Pilots spokesman Jim Gardner said management wants pilots to abandon the collective bargaining process of the Railway Labor Act, "which has served the airline industry and its unions for over 60 years.

"They have dragged their feet all spring and summer to get to a self-created deadline that they control," he said.

Pub Date: 9/09/97

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.