Shane Nelson
Shane Nelson

Building frustration surrounding contract negotiations between the union representation for 600-plus pilots working for Hawaiian Airlines and the carrier’s management spilled out into the local media last week as both sides traded jabs, spurred largely by a March 16 informational picket at the Aloha State’s largest airport.

More than 300 uniformed Hawaiian Airlines pilots took part in the demonstration March 12, carrying signs reading “Market Rate Contract Now!” and “Fully Qualified, Partially Paid!” The public picket had been announced two days prior in a media alert released by the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA).

“While Hawaiian’s share price has risen well over 500% over the last five years, our pilot contract is worth 45% less than our peers at similar airlines,” Capt. Hoon Lee, the chairman of ALPA’s Hawaiian master executive council, said in a March 16 statement. “To add further insult to injury, our CEO has arbitrarily denied pilots profit sharing for the fourth quarter of 2015, when the company reported the highest profits in its history.”

Hawaiian and its pilots have been in contract negotiations for nearly a year, but the National Mediation Board joined the talks this January.

“We are likewise frustrated by the pace of negotiations and are thankful a federal mediator is helping to close the gap,” Mark Dunkerley, Hawaiian’s president and CEO, said in a March 16 memo to employees.

Dunkerley went on to describe Hawaiian’s pilot benefit package as “the industry’s richest,” noting that the carrier’s pilots are “the only ones in the U.S. aviation industry to enjoy lifetime retiree medical benefits for themselves and their spouses.”

He added that the previous deal, agreed to by both the Hawaiian pilots’ ALPA representatives and company management, stipulated that “profit sharing would be suspended beyond the amendable date of their collective bargaining agreement.”

That amendable date was Sept. 14, 2015, according to Ann Botticelli, Hawaiian’s senior vice president of corporate communications.  

“For ALPA to suggest that the company is unilaterally withholding profit sharing from them is false,” Dunkerley said in his memo.

According to Lee, meanwhile, Hawaiian has proposed reducing days off per month for pilots, tried to undercut job security and is “seeking cuts to both active and retiree health care.”

“Our members have played a major role in making Hawaiian Airlines the industry leader in on-time performance for the past 12 years,” Lee said. “Yet our CEO can’t deliver an on-time contract to his pilots. Mr. Dunkerley preaches the importance of ohana [family] when speaking about his employees — it’s time to make ohana more than a marketing slogan.”

Both sides are set to meet again for federally mediated negotiations at the National Mediation Board headquarters in Washington, D.C., the week of March 28.
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