ASA pilots picket again

By Justin Boron

Pilots disappointed in the pace of their contract negotiations with Atlantic Southeast Airlines picketed in front of the South Terminal at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport Tuesday for the third time since December.

The pickets occurred a week after news reports said the Delta subsidiary may be sold to SkyWest Inc.

ASA spokeswoman Gina Pesko would not comment on how a possible sale would affect the negotiations, calling the reports speculative.

But John Perkinson, an Air Lines Pilot Association representative, said it may be why the company is dragging its feet on negotiations.

Nevertheless, he said because the pilots' contract has a successorship clause, it would roll over to a buying company.

The contract negotiations with ASA began September of 2002 when the pilots' current contract became amendable.

ASA pilots have an agreement with management separate from the one Delta pilots have.

They also make significantly less money than do Delta pilots.

Little progress has been made in the negotiations since the group of pilots last picketed, said Nick Tomlin, a captain for ASA.

But in most cases, the company is still slow to respond to its proposals, he said.

Pesko said an endless number of proposals has limited what the company can do to move along negotiations.

Tomlin said ASA management also has started to dig into the pilots current contract by "reinterpreting" particular clauses regarding its labor productivity.

"They're making us buy back what we already own," he said.

Pilots say three consecutive trips taken with short layovers referred to as "naps" usually came with two days off.

Now, they say the two days rest are being pulled back.

"They continue to violate our contract," said Rick Bernskoetter, a spokesman for the informational protest.

While Pesko said ASA has asked for productivity increases where necessary, she added it has not asked for any concessionary agreement from the pilots in the form of pay cuts.

Mediation in the negotiations may be moving the site for meetings out of Atlanta to speed up the process, Pesko said.

In May of 2004, negotiations entered into mediation under the supervision of the National Mediation Board, which was created in 1934 to resolve labor disputes in the railroad and airline industry.

By moving the talks to a place away from the work place, it forces the two groups to work, Tomlin said.

No location has been decided, he said.