Airline Division News, Week Ending April 28, 2012
PATCO Raises Critical Safety Issues at Control Tower, Airline Division Expresses It’s Concern
The Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO) has raised concerns over the critically short staffing situation that exists at the Lihue, HI airport control tower.
In a letter to SERCO Management Services, the private company who operates the tower under a contract with the FAA, PATCO has expressed their concern over the current critical low staffing situation and its potential impact on aviation safety. The authorized staffing at the facility is six controllers and one staff Air Traffic Manager. While SERCO has moved two temporary controllers to the facility in response to the letter, a trainee manager has now quit, leaving the facility without a qualified Air Traffic Manager.
“With over 200 air carrier flights and numerous local sightseeing and general aviation flights daily, the airport is operating with approximately 50% of its required air traffic controller staffing. Because of the current critical staffing, single person coverage is very common with no back-up in case of an emergency or incident,” said PATCO President Ron Taylor. “Controllers are working long hours, and expected to do more with less, creating more pressure and stress, pushing the envelope on air safety below minimum safety standards.”
“The problem here is compensation,” said Taylor. “The cost of living on the North Shore is very high and SERCO simply doesn’t pay these controllers enough to live on. Add in the demands of working ten hour shifts, six days a week, the stress of the job and mounting concerns about making sure the aircraft are safe in the skies and on the ground with insufficient backup and you have a situation that is untenable. The controllers need a decent wage and the proper staffing. SERCO cannot attract people because of the conditions and pay, so they keep trying to put a band aid on the problem by putting a couple of temporary people in the tower. But we’re still short.”
“We are very concerned about the safety of the air carriers and the citizens of the North Shore,” he went on to say. “If the staffing level drops further, the FAA could shut down the tower, severely impacting the airport and community as the air carriers would likely have to cease operations here. That would have a disastrous economic impact on the North Shore. The other option would be to severely curtail the number of hours that the tower is open, which would also impact the community economically. We hope that the local government and business community will join with us, agree that the potential safety concerns and economic risks to the area are unacceptable and join us in demanding that SERCO provide compensation levels adequate to attract additional controllers and ensure that we have a properly and safely staffed control tower,” Taylor concluded.
“I am very concerned about the situation at the Lihue tower,” said Airline Division Director David Bourne. “As an airline pilot myself, I can assure you that adequately staffed tower and alert air traffic controllers are a critical part of the safety chain in aviation. To hear that this tower is so seriously understaffed causes me to question whether SERCO is more interested in profits or the safety of the over 2.4 million passengers who use the airport annually and the economic risks the community will face it the tower is shut down or curtailed. For anyone who questions whether big business is more concerned about profits or safety of the public, SERCO is providing a very clear answer. I intend to discuss this with our friends on Capitol Hill and make sure they are aware of this situation as it may well not be an isolated event with this company,” Bourne said. “When it comes to airline and passenger safety, there can be no compromise,” he concluded.
SWA, AirTran Stock Clerk/Material Specialist SLI Integration Update
Members of the Southwest and AirTran SLI integration committees met in Dallas on April 24th and 25th.
Present at the meetings were Local 104 Business Agent Joe Rhein, Terry DeVault (MDW), Gregg Vandagriff (PHX), Roger Baur (HOU), Brian Whitman (TPA), Kevin Givens (HOU), Kevin Morris (DAL), Richard Moye (ATL), Nathan Byrd (ATL), Bill Druback (MCO-AirTran), Gary Loffert (ATL), Local 528 Business Agent Johnny Edwards, Alvin Bray (ATL), Local 769 Business Agent Daisy Gonzalez-Colli, IBT International Representative Chris Moore IBT and Attorney Joshua McInerney.
During the two day session, the committee was able to draft three separate proposals; a Seniority List Integration proposal based on Category / Classification date and Transition Agreements that will cover the SWA Material Specialists and the AirTran Stock Clerks. These agreements were passed to the company on April 25th.
Once an agreement is reached with the Company, the agreements will be sent to their respective members for a vote.
Negotiations Continue for Atlas Air Dispatchers, Progress Reported
The latest round of negotiations between the Airline Division and Atlas Air on a first contract for the airlines FAA licensed flight dispatchers made significant progress this week.
After first finding common ground in some of Article 14- Benefits, the parties were able to agree to all areas of this Article and sign a tentative agreement (T/A) on the Section, leading to additional tentative agreements Article 11(a) - Sick Leave and OJI.
Focused then turned to Article 1- Recognition and Scope, Article 7- Hours of Service, and Article 4 - Overtime. After reviewing the Company’s first counter of Article 1, the team expects to make further progress in the next round of meetings in early May. Previously held discussions on Articles 4 and 7 in past negotiations led to agreement in to all but a few concepts in each. The parties were able to address those areas and signed tentative agreements on both Articles 7 and 14.
The four tentative agreements signed this past week leave only a few Articles left to address and both the union negotiators and Company, are pleased with the current progress and hope to carry this momentum into the next series of meetings.
Airline Industry News
Governmental and Regulatory
Nine airline associations, including Airlines for America, have sent a joint letter to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood opposing the requirement that airlines use global distribution systems. "Instead, airlines should continue to have the right to utilize any distribution channel they choose, as long as in doing so they meet the letter and spirit of this shared commitment to transparency," the letter said.
Airline and Labor
American Airlines told bankruptcy court this week that it has to reduce labor costs to stay afloat…The union representing mechanics and other workers at American Airlines plans to vote next week on the carrier's latest contract offer. The contract would cut "substantially" fewer than 8,500 jobs, an AMR representative said.
David Bates, president of the Allied Pilots Association, says US Airways will submit an alternative plan to American Airlines…Boeing has reported a profit of $923 million for the first quarter, compared to a $586 million profit in the same quarter last year.
Republic Airways Holdings posted a net loss of $7.1 million for the first quarter. Subsidiary Frontier Airlines narrowed its loss to $21.6 million for the quarter, compared with $39 million in the same quarter last year.
Airbus will pay about $139 million to repair cracks in the wings of its A380 through its warranty program.