On July 26, pilots from Kalitta Air, a DHL contractor, will converge in Fort Lauderdale to tell their employer and DHL that pilots are united and ready to strike.
They will be joined in solidarity by pilots from other DHL contractors. The picket will be outside the location of a Kalitta bargaining meeting, and a short distance from the headquarters of DHL’s U.S. operation – DHL Express – in Plantation, Florida.
Recently, pilots from five U.S. DHL contractors voted with 99 percent support to strike should it be necessary. A cargo pilot strike would cripple DHL’s global operation as the five picketing carriers account for approximately 70 percent of DHL’s total global flying.
The management of one of these carriers, Kalitta Air, has refused for more than five years to negotiate fairly with its pilots. As a result, Kalitta pilots have been working under a substandard, outdated contract that became amendable for renegotiation more than five years ago. The company strategy to impede and delay the negotiations has backfired, jeopardizing its operations, as the contract’s below-market terms are pushing many pilots to leave the airline for more stable jobs at passenger carriers with market-standard contracts and working conditions. At a time when a pilot shortage is becoming an industry-wide concern, the airline’s ability to keep up with the demands of DHL and other customers could be at risk.
At the informational picket on Tuesday, pilots flying for major DHL contractors (Kalitta Air, Atlas Air, Polar Air Cargo, Southern Air and ABX Air) will stand together and call on Kalitta Air executives to get serious about negotiations and commit to a fair, industry-standard contract.
DHL reported €59.2 billion ($66.7 billion US dollars) in increased consolidated revenue this past year, with the express division, which is based in Plantation, FL and includes the operations of Kalitta Air, Atlas Air, Polar Air, Southern Air and ABX – being its strongest and most profitable division.
Despite rising profits at DHL and its contractors, the five contractors are trying to force pilots into substandard contracts that would have a devastating impact by suppressing wages and lowering quality of life issues for pilots. According to a comparison study conducted by the pilots’ union, Teamsters Local 1224, many of the pilots are paid considerably less and work much longer hours than pilots who fly for UPS or FedEx. Pilots at Atlas, Polar and Southern reported being forced to fly long hours with minimal rest time in between flights, leading to dangerous fatigue. Citing these growing concerns,pilots at the five DHL-contracted carriers recently voted with 99 percent support to strike if necessary. Nearly 2,000 pilots voted.