COLUMBUS, Ohio, Feb. 27, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The commonalities and challenges that bind the largest professional pilot groups who fly on behalf of fractional ownership programs focused talks at the 2015 Fractional Pilots Summit in Columbus earlier this week. The Summit, which convenes at least once each year, draws pilot labor leaders, attorneys and representatives from the NetJets Association of Shared Aircraft Pilots (NJASAP), representing the NetJets Aviation Inc., pilots, and Teamsters Local 1108, which represents the Flight Options and Travel Management Company pilot groups, and is in the process of organizing the Flexjet pilots.
"While our employers may compete, the pilot groups do not," NJASAP President Pedro Leroux said. "In fact, we share numerous similarities – chief of which is protecting the integrity and viability of professional piloting." Added Local 1108 President Efrem Vojta, "There is an impressive network of pilots and unions out there willing to share their experiences, insight and information. As professional pilots, it is evident that we will all benefit if we communicate regularly with one another."
Contract talks, in particular, were a focal point given the NetJets pilots have been in direct talks since late June 2013, and the Flight Options pilots recently began Section 6 bargaining. "From a financial performance standpoint, both NetJets and Flight Options have reported growth and profitability in recent years," Leroux pointed out. "What will be interesting is whether Flight Options management chooses to follow in NetJets CEO Jordan Hansell's footsteps by launching a full-scale attack on the pilot group's wages, benefits and working conditions on day one of talks."
In light of the many challenges associated with traditional talks, Union leaders pledged to engage in mutual support efforts to the greatest extent possible as negotiations unfold at their separate carriers. Indeed, holding the line on wages, benefits and working conditions is an imperative for both groups in this round of negotiations. "Individuals and companies who invest in fractional programs expect incomparable customer service and safety," Leroux said, "however, if these companies fail to provide professional pilot opportunities that attract – and retain – the best and the brightest, then they will have nothing to offer their clientele but second-tier pilots." Vojta continued, "For our employers to give their wealthy owners anything less than the very best has very real implications for their long term viability."
Reflecting on the four previous summits, Union advocates agreed trends may change, but the labor-management dynamic stays largely the same. Across the aviation industry, Leroux commented, pilot groups are confronted by strikingly similar challenges. "It is so often the case – especially in contract talks – for management groups to argue an operation's ability to thrive and survive rests on a pilot group's shoulders; however, management is responsible for what goes on in the boardroom in the same way a pilot commands the cockpit," Leroux said. "It is neither in our purview to shepherd the business nor to subsidize bad decisions."
Participants also received a briefing from Teamsters Representative Rick Dubinsky regarding the revitalized effort to organize the Flexjet pilot group. The Teamsters-led drive was launched to protect the interests of the pilots employed by Flight Options and Flexjet – operations owned by Kenn Ricci's Directional Aviation Capitol (DAC). "Considering executive management's intent to merge the operations, it is critical to get the pilots at both DAC companies represented by a strong union to prevent management from whipsawing one pilot group against the other." Vojta said. "We are pleased with the interest the Flexjet pilots have demonstrated in forming a union and becoming an integral part of Local 1108." The organizing drive, which continues to gather steam, will remain a major priority for Local 1108 in the weeks ahead.
Standing together as the bona fide labor representatives of the overwhelming majority of pilots employed in the fractional sector of the aviation industry, the NJASAP and Local 1108 Presidents opined, offers the surest path to protecting their members' careers. "We will stand against trends that would damage and diminish our profession," Vojta said. "Working as a professional pilot is an occupation in which our members take great pride, and safeguarding the careers they have spent years building is an imperative Local 1108 and NJASAP will pursue with ceaseless resolve."
About NJASAP Founded in 2008 as an independent labor affiliate, the NetJets Association of Shared Aircraft Pilots (NJASAP) represents the professional interests of the 2,700-plus pilots who fly in the service of NetJets Aviation, Inc., a Berkshire Hathaway (BRK-B) subsidiary. For more information, visit NJASAP at www.njasap.com, on Facebook, www.facebook.com/njasap, or Twitter, @njasap.
About Teamsters Local 1108
Teamsters Local 1108, part of the Teamsters Airline Division, represents nearly 500 pilots employed by Flight Options, LLC., and 200 pilots employed by Travel Management Company. The International Brotherhood of Teamsters was founded in 1903 and represents more than 1.4 million hardworking men and women in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico.
SOURCE NetJets Association of Shared Aircraft Pilots