North America

Teamsters: Kalitta Air Backs Out Of Tentative Agreement With Pilots

Kalitta Air Boeing 747-200
Wim Bladt via CC BY-SA 3.0

According to Teamsters, Kalitta Air, the Ypsilanti, Michigan-based cargo airline, has reneged on its tentative agreement with pilots and their union that would have ended six years of prolonged contract negotiations and put the airline on a path to stability for its clients.

Kalitta Air operates a fleet of Boeing 747 aircraft in support of the global network of DHL Express, a division of the German logistics company, Deutsche Post DHL. The International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Airline Division, Local 1224 represents the pilot group.

“Kalitta Air pilots have been doing everything we can to work with the company so we can move our airline forward, and we were pleased that we came to a strong agreement that would ensure we have enough pilots to serve customers like DHL long term,” said Scott Nelson, chair of the Local 1224-Kalitta Air Executive Council.

“But Kalitta executives broke their word and our tentative agreement, and it’s difficult to see how Kalitta Air can recover in the eyes of pilots across the United States and customers around the world.”

With the assistance of the National Mediation Board, the Teamsters and Kalitta Air reached a tentative agreement on September 29, 2016. Last week representatives of the two sides met in Ypsilanti to proofread the final document in advance of a planned ratification vote by the union’s membership.

During the proofreading session, Kalitta executives claimed that there was no agreement on key areas of the proposed contract, including entire sections written by Kalitta Air that were agreed to by union negotiators. The carrier sent a letter to Kalitta pilots and their union on October 31 disclaiming the tentative agreement.

The union previously obtained an injunction against Kalitta Air for violating the Railway Labor Act. Flight crews also overwhelmingly passed a resolution accusing management of placing customer relationships at risk and harming the company’s ability to attract and retain pilots in an increasingly tight labor market and in the midst of a pilot shortage that has cargo and passenger carriers scrambling to retain skilled pilots.

“Kalitta Air’s dedicated pilots and customers deserve better, and we are all very concerned that customers won’t tolerate the instability at the carrier for much longer,” Wells said.

“The union and Kalitta pilots are committed to the success of the carrier and obtaining a fair contract. But the question now is whether Kalitta executives’ short-sighted betrayal of the pilots and the customers’ trust has taken the airline to the point where it can’t recover.”

Kalitta Air pilots have already authorized a strike. Union attorneys and leadership are meeting to develop a response to the carrier’s latest move.

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