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Labor disputes are in the air

By Hpanchal on July 1, 2011

Last month, after weeks upon weeks of negotiations, customer service workers at Air Canada left their jobs and picked up pickets. Employees were frustrated that a resolution to disputes over wages, pensions and benefits couldn’t be reached. The strike, which the carrier said didn’t affect services, began at 11:59 p.m. on a Monday night. It was resolved by that Thursday.

A negotiation dispute at Canada Post, which had already lead to striking workers, resulted in a temporary shutdown of the organization. As of press time, employees still aren’t back to work, mail isn’t getting delivered and legislators are contemplating a way to force striking workers back to their posts.

The latest word from London is that members of the British Airline Pilots Association who work at Virgin Atlantic have voted for a work stoppage. Their specific gripe has to do with pay. It’s been reported that Virgin is offering pilots a 4 percent raise in 2011, with a 3 percent increase in 2012 and 2013. These percentages, the association says, don’t even come close to the 5 percent inflation rate. Airline spokespeople say it’s a fair wage increase.

Labor protection is necessary, of course, but negotiations can sure get nasty. Both sides want their demands met, and sometimes nobody wants to compromise. Labor unions and contract negotiations are on my mind because the Independent Pilots Association (IPA), which represents 2,800 UPS pilots, will start negotiating a new contract toward the end of the year.

The IPA was in Atlanta recently preparing for what’s to come, and its officers have just begun collecting feedback from the organization’s members about what they’d like to see in a new contract. Tense negotiations and weeks of back-and-forth bargaining are a given, but it would be nice to see UPS and the IPA reach an agreement without a work stoppage.

Changing topics for a bit, I’ve received a few letters about my June editorial, “Air cargo and the university system: A perfect match?” I know this is a topic worthy of extended exploration, and I appreciate the feedback.

In one of the emails, John Mascaritolo, an assistant professor of supply chain from right down the road at Clayton State University, wrote that he sees the same issues in Atlanta as Diana Marek sees at Northwestern University in Chicago.

He pointed out that “the industry is at different levels of bringing on new, young talent.” And while continuing education and training programs help, “the industry has to spawn the workforce and lay out the opportunities for people to see air cargo as a solid
career pathway to the future.”

You can always comment on anything I write or we publish in these pages by sending an email to jon.ross@aircargoworld.com.

— Jon Ross is the editor of Air Cargo World.

Comments

Submitted by Joe Mantineo on

My heart bleeds for those guys. Yes, maybe the cost of living is five percent but three percent is better than zero. I have been in the air freight business for 31 years; last raise I got was 2008 and that was two percent. So don't cry to me. Wake up and smell the roses; air freight is hurting right now. When we get back to normal then make a call. Those guys should be happy they still have a job!

Joe/ATL

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