US and Canadian pilots’ unions fight over Cargojet and fatigue rules
A union representing Canadian freight pilots criticized an American counterpart for criticizing employer Cargojet (TSX: CJT) about alleged efforts to undermine stricter duty time regulations aimed at reducing fatigue, saying the remarks constitute interference in ongoing negotiations and a self-serving attempt to drive its members away.
The Airline Pilots Association on Friday sent letters to the management of Cargojet and Unifor, Canada’s large private sector union, challenging them to stop what it claimed to be attempts to weaken new Canadian hours of service rules that came into effect in December.
“Having the ALPA President preach from Virginia to our Fatigue and Safety Negotiating Committee pilots is condescending, arrogant and disrespectful,” Jerry Dias said in a written response to the public statement and letters. of ALPA.
The president of ALPA “knows full well that 130 Canadian pilots stand to lose their jobs, and he stands ready to take their dues if operations move to the United States, where Congress has exempted airline operators from freight of certain fatigue rules, giving them a competitive advantage over Canadian operators. “
Cargojet CEO Ajay Virmani said last week that the all-cargo airline is exploring ways to gain a foothold in the United States, possibly through a minority investment in a lightweight airline that needs a player. established to operate airplanes.
Cargojet operates a nighttime home network for Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN), DHL (DXE: DPW) and Purolator, with its aircraft also providing interline traffic for international airlines. It also offers aircraft rental and an international charter service. It has more than two dozen jumbo jets in its fleet.
Unifor Local 7378 said its pilots are voting on a tentative deal with Cargojet and have no plans to allow regulations on unsafe flights and hours of service.
“Suggesting that our committee would accept any exemption not based on the science of safety and fatigue is another example of an American association trying to interfere with our democratic collective bargaining process,” said the local president. 7378, Mike Powers.
The new work rules increase the rest time for all commercial pilots in Canada, bringing the country in line with international standards. Annual flight time is now capped at 1,000 hours instead of 1,200 and pilots are required to rest 12 hours, instead of eight, between shifts.
ALPA said it learned that Cargojet was seeking rule waivers and alleged it was engaging in intimidation tactics to influence pilots to support the demand.
“I am deeply disturbed that Cargojet may be using the threat of layoffs and downgrades to convince pilots to support this plan which would weaken safety and put pilots at risk, at a time when your airline has stated significant profits, ”said President Joe DePete said in his letter to Virmani. “The regulations in force today are the culmination of years of work and collaboration between all stakeholders in our industry.”
Cargojet reported first quarter net profit of US $ 68.4 million. It has benefited from a tight supply of aircraft and a growing demand for e-commerce shipments.
ALPA, which represents Air Transat to several other Canadian air carriers, also berated Unifor for allegedly joining Cargojet’s plan.
“With four months of operating experience, we can say that our members have reported that these science-based rules, while not perfect, represent a significant improvement over the previous set of regulations in Canada. Any exemption, waiver or weakening of these would undermine security and be a slap in the face for those who fought so hard to get them adopted in the first place, ”DePete wrote to Dias.
“The debate over whether pilots should be protected from management abuse and forced to work when it is not safe to do so is over, and it is time to move forward. No one – especially a trade unionist – should try to make it easier for management to put workers at risk, especially when that management reported large profits in the last quarter of operations ”, DePete said.
Outspoken Dias, whose union also represents auto workers in Canada, fought back over the weekend.
“The ALPA is now raid on our pilots at Flair Air and it smacks of a poorly disguised attempt to raid our pilots by an association that for decades had not been interested in smaller operations such as Cargojet or Flair, deemed too small for their business model, and now that the pandemic has caused massive layoffs, ALPA is reaching new lows. It is clearly an association and not a union, ”said Dias.
Unifor has been extremely active in lobbying the Canadian government for a national plan to reopen air travel and support the aviation industry, while ALPA has been mostly absent from the debate, he added. .
Cargojet said anti-fatigue rules would increase costs, but concerns about a pilot shortage have eased with the COVID pandemic amid downsizing of struggling passenger airlines.
Cargojet began recruiting and training additional pilots, in anticipation of the new rule, in the second half of 2019. It entered into a new five-year contract with its pilots in July 2018 which increases pay by approximately 20 % and urges both parties not to strike or implement a lockout A year later, the Canadian carrier introduced a retention bonus for all pilots and extended Unifor’s contract by 36 months until mid-2026 in an effort to reduce attrition and meet its staffing requirements under the law.
At the end of 2019, Cargojet began to apply a surcharge to freight bills to cover the additional costs of recruiting, training and retaining pilots due to government action.
Click here to read more FreightWaves / American Shipper stories by Eric Kulisch.
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