US Airways pilots OK deal cutting base pay 18%; airline to save $300 million a year

Thursday, October 21st 2004, 12:55 pm
By: News On 6

ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) _ US Airways' pilots' union ratified a new labor contract Thursday that will cut their base pay by 18 percent and save the airline $300 million a year.

The bankrupt airline, a unit of US Airways Group Inc., has expressed hope that a ratified deal with the pilots will give it momentum as it seeks cuts from its three other major unions, representing machinists, flight attendants and passenger service workers.

It says it needs about $950 million in annual cost cuts from all its unions to have any chance at survival.

The Air Line Pilots Association said that 1,690 pilots, or 58 percent of those voting, favored the contract, while 1,236 voted against. Eighty-nine percent of the union's 3,291 eligible members cast ballots.

The ratification means that US Airways pilots will not face temporary pay cuts of 21 percent that a bankruptcy judge imposed last week on unions that have not agreed to new, long-term contracts.

The ratification vote follows months of contentious negotiations that exposed deep divisions within the union. Union representatives in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, who represent a majority of US Airways pilots, had blocked a ratification vote before last month's bankruptcy filing, saying the terms were so harsh a union acceptance would amount to ``total capitulation.''

After agreeing to allow a vote, the Pittsburgh and Philadelphia representatives had still recommended a ``no,'' suggesting a better contract might be obtainable through the bankruptcy process.

In the voting, which concluded Thursday, the Pittsburgh and Philadelphia units rejected the agreement, with 52 and 54 percent in opposition, respectively.

But the union's four smaller units, based in Charlotte, N.C.; Washington; Boston; and New York, all strongly backed the new contract, with support ranging from 68 percent to 84 percent.

``Clearly, this ratification shows that the pilots of US Airways understand why it was necessary to come to a consensual agreement with the company,'' said Bill Pollock, chairman of the US Airways Master Executive Council.

Along with the 18 percent pay cut, pilots will have to fly more hours each month, likely resulting in additional furloughs. Nearly 1,900 US Airways pilots have been furloughed over the past three years.