Hawaiian Airlines pilots, along with representatives from their Air Line Pilots Association International union, opened a Strategic Preparedness Center at the Honolulu Airport on Aug. 11.
According to a statement released by ALPA, the center's opening sets the stage for a possible strike authorization vote if federal mediations scheduled to begin Aug. 18 in Washington do not produce an agreement.
"If that mediation session is not productive, we may have no option but to ask the National Mediation Board to declare an impasse and release the Hawaiian pilot group from mediation," First Officer Sam Taeu, secretary-treasurer of ALPA's Hawaiian pilot group, said in the statement. "As a first step in that process, the union leadership is prepared to send a ballot to our pilots asking them to give us the authorization to go on strike once the government allows us to do so."
Hawaiian's 400 pilots have been in contract negotiations with the airline's management for nearly two-and-a-half years and have not received a pay raise since 2007. In the ALPA statement, union officials said pilots are seeking "reasonable cost-of-living increases and a small increase in the company contribution to the pilots' retirement fund."
According to an Aug. 11 report posted on the local ABC affiliate KITV website, Hawaiian pilots are asking for a 17% pay increase over the next four years, while the airline is offering a 4% raise over four years.
"One thing we want to emphasize to our customers is that the Hawaiian pilots are not on strike," Taeu continued. "A strike is the last thing we want to do; it would hurt everybody. But this contract situation is like a toothache: It's starting to hurt, and it's only going to get worse if we ignore the problem and don't take action."
The Strategic Preparedness Center houses software that keeps track of all Hawaiian Airlines flights as well as all of the pilots' schedules so Hawaiian pilots can be located and assisted should a strike be called. The location could also be used to coordinate phone banks and picketing.
"This is a huge endeavor that we all take very seriously, as our careers, our families and our futures are at stake," Hawaiian Airlines Strategic Preparedness Chairman Capt. Craig Kahauolopua said in the statement. "Our national union has given us $2 million to help us prepare for the unknown. Our SPC Center is now open. We are ready."
In a brief statement also released Aug. 11, Hawaiian Airlines officials said: "Hawaiian's pilots have amongst the very best contracts and work rules in the industry, and it is Hawaiian's belief that at the end of the negotiations this will continue to be the case. ... Raising the specter now of actions that could damage the company and harm the community as the pilots' union leadership has suggested is both irresponsible and counterproductive."