March 11, 2016

 

Negotiations Refresher, Part 2

 

As our pilot group begins the reset process to resume negotiations, we have also reset the X-Ray to give you a refresher on how negotiations work. Last time we talked about the Railway Labor Act and the external legal framework that defines how and when we can bargain with management. In this issue, weÕll be discussing our internal bargaining structure -- the people and the process we use to arrive at a new contract.

 

ALPA Representation

 

When you think of ALPA negotiating your contract, you might think of men in suits sitting in a closed room. But at ALPA, thatÕs simply not how it works.

 

The most important players and the decision-makers at the negotiating table arenÕt ALPA lawyers and staffÑitÕs your fellow pilots and your local pilot leaders. Your MEC and your Negotiating Committee chart the course of negotiations based on your input and make all of the decisions on your behalf. However, they donÕt go in there aloneÑthey have a team backing them, including:

 

á      Professional negotiators in ALPAÕs Representation Department

á      Financial analysts in ALPAÕs Economic & Financial Analysis Department

á      Attorneys in ALPAÕs Legal Department

á      Benefit specialists in ALPAÕs Retirement & Insurance Dept., including benefit attorneys and insurance actuaries

á      Communications specialists from ALPAÕs Communications Department

 

The Team Approach

 

As you recall from the most recent edition of the X-Ray, negotiating a collective bargaining agreement under the Railway Labor Act (RLA) is complicated, to say the least. The ALPA team that backs up your negotiators has years of experience, in-depth knowledge of the RLA, and a commitment to best practices have molded the ALPA team approach into an extremely effective process for achieving our pilot groupÕs contract goals.

 

In the team approach, pilot volunteers, elected officers, committees, and ALPA staff fulfill specific roles and responsibilities in negotiations. The team strategy capitalizes on each playerÕs particular expertise, knowledge, and experience, which enables the pilot group to deliver a powerful, unified, and effective effort.

 

The Role of the MEC, Negotiating Committee, and Specialty Committees

 

Your elected officersÑthe MECÑrepresent the pilot group on the team. Once the goals and priorities are established, the Negotiating Committee works to achieve these goals. As with other ALPA committees, Negotiating Committee members come from the pilot ranks and are chosen by the MEC.

 

Because of the complexity of a typical pilot contract, the work of the MEC and Negotiating Committee is supplemented by numerous specialty committees made up of pilot volunteers selected by the MEC. Among these at our ARW MEC are the Retirement and Insurance, Scheduling, Grievance, Hotel, and Safety Committees.

 

While these committees are active year-round, during contract negotiations they play the vital role of subject matter experts who analyze and develop negotiating options and recommendations in their area of expertise so that both the Negotiating Committee and the MEC can fulfill their responsibilities to the pilot group in the most informed and effective way.

 

The MEC is also charged with building unity of purpose and support among the pilot group. The Communications Committee is responsible for creating and implementing a communications plan that educates the pilots and their families about collective bargaining and the goals for negotiations, updates them on progress, and encourages them to engage in the process.

 

The Strategic Planning Committee (SPC) is designed to help prepare pilots and their families to build leverage throughout negotiations, but particularly help them prepare for the end stages of negotiations and any contingencies that may arise during that period. The SPC also works to enlist help from other pilot groups, and secure guidance and funds from national resources to prepare for the endgame.

 

It Starts (and Ends) with You

 

But even with this comprehensive team of ALPA professionals and pilot volunteers working on your behalf, when it comes right down to it negotiations begin and end with you. You elect your key decision-making leadersÑthe MEC. The leaders you elect then selects the Negotiating Committee from the ranks, looking for expertise, commitment, and a willingness to put in long hours (often for a number of years) to help their fellow pilots.

 

As the pilot groupÕs representatives are chosen, surveys are distributed, and priorities are identified and negotiating strategies are developed. Once again, you have the individual responsibility to participate in the activities of the union and to express your views and concerns. Whether itÕs by going to your local meetings, attending events, or simply writing an email to your representative, itÕs vital that you keep providing feedback during negotiations.

 

ItÕs also essential that you stay informed throughout the process. A collective bargaining agreement is often a moving targetÑespecially in todayÕs turbulent economic environment and ever-changing airline industry. Things have been known to change overnight in our industry and our segment of the industry especially is in the midst of great change. These events directly affect what is going on at the negotiating table and the decisions that are being made, not only at the table but also the voting box.

 

Be sure to read everything distributed by your MEC and Negotiating Committee, attend roadshows and forums, and if you have questions or concerns, donÕt hesitate to contact your status rep or the Negotiating Committee. However, we recognize you have elected your leaders to understand the complexity of the issues and make those difficult decisions on your behalf. If you have chosen your elected leaders wisely you should be able to go about your life trusting and following the lead your elected leaders are taking.

 

Throughout the process of negotiating a contract, the most important player in the process is youÑand you have a role to play. Staying informed, providing feedback, and steering clear of the rumor mill helps your team get you the best contract possible.

 

In a couple of weeks your team is going back to work for you. The team has weathered some natural changes since last October, with the most recent and probably most significant change being the departure of Mark Lockwood, Negotiating Chairman of six years. Anticipating MarkÕs departure, the MEC has placed Reed Donoghue, a longstanding, experienced volunteer, on the committee. And at the most recent MEC meeting, the MEC unanimously elected current committee member Bob Burgess to chair the committee.  Mark left the committee at the end of February  and his last act as chairman was to lead the team through three days of review and discussion of the survey and polling results.

 

As we anticipated it has taken some time to reset and refocus after last yearÕs rejected TA. However, the MEC and the Negotiating Committee are looking forward to the week of March 21 when the parties will sit down for the first time in 2016.

 

Last year you told us that the previous TA was insufficient, and the message was sent loud and clear to upper management that Air Wisconsin ownership and management need to invest more in the future of this pilot group and this company. Thanks to the bargaining survey, the telephone polling, and face-to-face conversations weÕve had with you since then, we feel confident that weÕre ready to re-engage with the company and work hard on reaching a new agreement that reflects the value of this pilot group.