Hawaiian pilots begin informational picketing, open strike authorization vote

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Shane Nelson
Shane Nelson

*logoHawaiian Airlines pilots staged an informational picket line outside Honolulu Airport on Aug. 25. The eight-hour protest came shortly after their union leadership opened a strike authorization vote for its members that is scheduled to continue through Sept. 10.

"Hawaiian management must understand that after years of giving back to our airline, we need firm guarantees that our company plans to give something back to us," Capt. Eric Sampson, chairman of the pilots' master executive council, said in a statement released by the Air Line Pilots Association.

"We cannot accept the continued erosion of our contract in exchange for vague promises of future profit-sharing when things get better. For us, the time is now."

Should Hawaiian's pilots vote to endorse the authorization, their ALPA leadership could call for a strike if the National Mediation Bureau, which has been overseeing contract negotiations, ultimately gave the union permission.

"Taking votes and other actions like this are not unusual during labor negotiations and have no effect on our operations," Hawaiian Airlines officials said in an Aug. 25 statement. "Most importantly, progress was made at the most recent round of negotiations, and more meetings are scheduled for October."

While the pilots union agrees that some progress was made during four days of mediation beginning Aug. 18 at NMB headquarters in Washington, ALPA says disagreement still exists between pilots and management on the structure and size of future pay increases.

"A major sticking point is management's insistence that pilots pay for any raises over 1% a year by agreeing to 'productivity enhancements,' contract concessions that would force them to fly longer hours and spend more time away from home," union officials said in the ALPA statement.

According to an Aug. 25 Honolulu Star Bulletin report, Hawaiian pilots are asking for a 17% pay increase over four years.

The same Star Bulletin report said Hawaiian's president and CEO, Mark Dunkerley, told the newspaper that the airline had offered its pilots a 20% pay increase over six years and a chance to join in profit sharing if the pilots agreed to revise a number of obsolete labor regulations.

Keoni Wagner, Hawaiian's vice president of public affairs, later confirmed Dunkerley's comments via email with Travel Weekly.

Further talks overseen by the NMB are scheduled for mid-October, but the two parties may also meet without a mediator in September. If no progress is made in the next mediated session, ALPA could ask to be released from mediation. A 30-day cooling-off period would follow that release and clear the way for a possible strike.

Hawaiian's pilots and management have spent two-and-a-half years in contract negotiations.

"We want a contract, not a strike," Sampson said. "And we are still hopeful an agreement can be reached before Hawaiian's 80th anniversary in November. We are also confident the strike voting results will prove that management should not test this group's resolve."

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