Hawaiian Airlines pilots, represented by the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) have authorized their union representatives to call for a strike if contract talks do not result in a new collective bargaining agreement.
The union reported that almost 98 percent of the pilot group voted, and of those voting, 99 percent voted to support the strike ballot which opened on April 25.
The voting results were made known at a rally near Honolulu International Airport Tuesday.
The pilots plan to hold an informational picket at the airport on Wednesday, May 25.
The strike vote does not mean that a strike is imminent. The National Mediation Board must first decide that additional mediation efforts would not be productive and extend an offer to arbitrate the dispute. If either side declines arbitration, the parties enter a “cooling off” period and are free to exercise self-help – a strike by the pilots or a lockout by the company – 30 days later.
Additional mediation sessions are not scheduled past June at this time.
The pilots’ contract became amendable in September 2015. ALPA and Hawaiian Airlines management began contract talks in May of last year and began working with a mediator in January 2016.
“We absolutely do not want to go on strike, but if that’s what it takes to get a market-rate contract, our pilots have told us loud and clear that they will stand together and take that final step,” said Capt. Hoon Lee, chairman of the ALPA unit at Hawaiian Airlines.
“At a time when Hawaiian is making more money than ever before, our management stubbornly refuses to share those profits with the employees who earned them,” Lee said. “Our patience is at an end and we demand a market-rate contract that recognizes our contributions to this airline’s astounding success.”
The airline said in a press release later in the day that “ALPA is asking for a 52 percent increase in total compensation in the first year of its contract. The value of that increase is $74 million – for a workforce of roughly 600.”
The airline claims that “our pilots are very well compensated,” citing that a top-of-scale captain “earns an average $242,000 annually for flying 700 hours a year,” as well as medical coverage for life for retirees and their spouses, and contributing between 15 and 19.4 percent annually to the pilots’ 401 (k) plan.
“All of Hawaiian’s collective bargaining agreements contain a provision – ratified by each union’s rank and file – stating that profit sharing does not accrue while contracts are amendable,” the airline said. “This contract provision has been applied to other collective bargaining units – including pilots in the past – and management will not make an exception for only one work group.”