The International Brotherhood of Teamsters and the Airline Division formally requested that the National Mediation Board initiate an investigation to determine if two subsidiaries of Air Transport Services Group (ATSG) should be considered a single transportation system.
ATSG owns ABX Air and Air Transport International, two cargo carriers that together employ an estimated 400 pilots and operate in the same mid-size cargo freighter segment of the industry, serving the same key customers DHL and Amazon.
The Teamsters and its affiliated local union, Airline Professionals Association, Teamsters Local 1224, contend that ATSG has operated the two carriers as a single transportation system while maintaining a facade of two separate carriers.
“That charade has to end,” said Rick Ziebarth, a long-time ABX Air pilot.
ABX Air and ATI operate in the same segment of the air cargo industry, serve the same key customers, swap equipment and use common flight and labor related programs and policies. Yet, ATSG characterizes the two carriers’ operations as separate from one another.
Historically, airline holding companies have owned and operated multiple airline subsidiaries and kept them separate from one another for various reasons, some of which were designed to artificially suppress labor costs and conditions. The historical model no longer works due to vastly changed economic conditions affecting the airline industry, including the increasingly dire shortage of pilots across the world, which are now straining airlines’ ability to efficiently, effectively and safely serve their customers.
“It makes no sense from an economic or a labor perspective,” said Daniel C. Wells, President of the Airline Professionals Association, Teamsters Local 1224. “All it does is run up the customers’ bills and drive pilots away to other carriers.”
The pilots hold that ATSG’s refusal to adapt to today’s challenging airline environment is costing the carriers and their customers dearly. Through its continued insistence that it operate two carriers as a single transportation system ATSG has incurred millions of dollars in forced overtime and other avoidable cost overruns, all of which have contributed to pilot fatigue and threated to exhaust its supply of available qualified pilots. Through a combined ABX and ATI pilot group, ATSG would benefit from greater operational efficiencies, reductions in overhead and overtime costs, and the elimination of duplicative management and departmental functions.
“The pilots want to provide the best possible service to our customers, including DHL and Amazon, but ATSG is jeopardizing that service, its reputation and our jobs by clinging to the remains of an outdated labor-cost model,” said Ziebarth. “I know that we fly planes and not rockets, but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that ATSG is way off course and that it needs to stop trying to manipulate its pilots and start focusing on what it takes to run a successful and efficient operation in today’s airline industry.”