AirTran pilots ask for U.S mediation of stalled talks

Company says move would slow bargaining

July 26, 2005|By COX NEWS SERVICE

ATLANTA - Saying that AirTran Airways has been dragging its feet, the discount carrier's pilots have asked federal mediators to step into the stalled labor talks.

The National Pilots Association, which represents about 1,100 pilots at AirTran, asked for help from the National Mediation Board after initiating talks late last year.

"In more than seven months, AirTran management has only made it to the bargaining table for a total of six and a half days of talks," said the union's president, Allen Philpot.

Union officials say they want to replace the current labor contract, which they consider too flexible, with a pact that has more teeth.

AirTran said it opposes bringing in federal mediators. "It's unfortunate that the National Pilots Association is filing for federal mediation as we believe it will significantly slow down the bargaining process," said AirTran spokesman Tad Hutcheson. "We've negotiated many contracts without mediation."

AirTran has faced an increasingly restive work force as it continues to report profits while Delta Air Lines and other big rivals report heavy losses.

Despite record fuel costs that deluged Delta in red ink in the second quarter, AirTran is expected to squeak by with an $8 million profit, before one-time charges or gains, when it reports second-quarter results today.

The pilots union is the second labor group at AirTran to ask for federal mediation. Last year, AirTran's flight attendants union sought the board's help after failing to reach a contract after help from a private mediator.

After 30 months of talks, the attendants ratified a contract in May.

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