Union leader says AA pilots angry over work rules

Associated Press Published: September 14, 2012
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DALLAS (AP) — American Airlines says it still wants to work out a new contract with its pilots, but the union's president says a deal is less likely now that American has imposed its own terms covering pay and work rules.

"The pilots are mad," said Keith Wilson, acting president of the Allied Pilots Association. "This corporation is not treating any of the employee groups with the respect they deserve."

American, which has been under bankruptcy protection since November, warned pilots that it would impose its own terms if pilots rejected the company's final contract offer, which they did last month.

Wednesday night, the company detailed new working terms for pilots. They include more power for American to make revenue-sharing deals with other airlines and shift more flying to smaller, regional carriers — both steps that could reduce pilot jobs at American. The company will also freeze one of the pilots' pension plans and terminate another in November.

Pilots will work under those terms until the company and union agree on a negotiated contract to replace the one thrown out by a federal bankruptcy judge. Creditors of American parent AMR Corp. say they still want the Fort Worth, Texas, company to negotiate a new contract with pilots, and so does American, but there have been no negotiations for several weeks.

Wilson, who became acting president of the pilots' union after his predecessor was forced out last month, said in an interview that the path to a deal is now "steeper and higher." He said pilots will be less likely to accept concessions.

However, American had no choice but to set terms for pilots after the union voted down the company's last offer, said Ray Neidl, a longtime airline-industry analyst with Maxim Group LLC.

The company needs to cut its spending on pilots in order to move ahead with its bankruptcy restructuring, Neidl said. American expects to save about $1 billion in annual labor spending, including about $300 million on pilots. He also suggested that, despite what Wilson says, throwing out the pilots' contract could make it easier to negotiate a new one.