JetBlue pilots, represented by the Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l (ALPA) have requested mediation from the National Mediation Board (NMB) to assist with the ongoing negotiations for their first contract since organizing as a union in 2014. The pilots have been consistent in their pursuit for a contract that includes market-rate compensation, compared to pilots who fly similar routes and aircraft. However, the company recently proposed a pay structure that would provide limited increases and keep the pilots near the bottom among major carriers.
“JetBlue pays market rate for every aspect of their business—from their aircraft to their fuel,” said Capt. Patrick Walsh, chairman of the JetBlue unit of ALPA. “Yet they seem to turn a blind eye to the reality of professional pilot costs associated with running a major airline in 2017.”
Coinciding with the mediation filing, nearly 300 pilots today participated in a contract rally near John F. Kennedy Int’l Airport to show support for their Negotiating Committee. The event featured updates from union leaders on negotiations and information on ALPA’s mediation filing. Pilots were also briefed on strike-preparation activities that would be deployed if the company failed to present a competitive economic proposal. Capt. Tim Canoll, president of ALPA, addressed the JetBlue pilots, reiterating ALPA’s full support for a successful conclusion to the pilots’ negotiations.
“The pilots at JetBlue have earned a contract that includes market-rate compensation,” said Capt. Walsh. “Although we hoped that the company would want a quick resolution to negotiations, it’s clear that they are dragging this out to avoid a fair contract for as long as possible. We’re hopeful that a mediator will help us speed along the process and come to an agreement that recognizes our contributions to JetBlue’s success.”
While the pilots have waited for a market-rate contract for the past two years, the company has posted more than $1 billion in profits—$759 million in 2016 alone. As profits have increased, the company has shown little enthusiasm at the table for providing the pilots with an agreement that would bring them in line with their peers. Instead, the negotiating pace has slowed in the last few months, prompting the pilots to request professional mediation from the NMB.