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Atlas Air’s legal action with its pilots is not over, despite the management winning a case for dismissal last week, but it will be expedited – something of a relief for increasingly concerned investors.
Last week a court dismissed lawsuits by its pilot’s union and Atlas issued a statement saying it now had a “clear and timely path forward to delivering the updated contract that our pilots deserve”.
It is, however, more complicated than that.
The ruling upheld Atlas Air’s argument that the merger provisions in both its and Southern Air’s collective bargaining agreements apply. This means a period of bargaining, followed by binding arbitration for any unresolved issues.
Atlas argued that the union must now provide it with the much-disputed integrated seniority list of pilots, which appears to be a sticking point in the negotiations.
As Atlas pointed out in a statement: “With these court rulings now rendered, the union is required to promptly provide the companies with an integrated seniority list of pilots, which will enable negotiations to proceed more expeditiously in reaching a new, competitive pilot contract.”
The union did not agree, however.
A different lawsuit, filed by Atlas in October, was put on hold when the related case was dismissed last week, and a judge ordered a ‘joint status report’ to outline the two parties’ arguments.
They had a telephone conference last Thursday, in which Atlas asked whether the union would comply with the ruling and provide the integrated seniority list within 45 days, and start negotiations. The union replied that it did not believe the court was compelling it to, and so would not.
Atlas noted that the pilots’ “continual refusal to comply with the awards cannot and should not be tolerated any longer”. It urged the court to enforce the decision, and compel the union to hand in the list.
The union, meanwhile, argued that, under the Railway Labor Act, it was allowed to challenge the request, and by doing so it is not refusing to comply. It also argued that “it would be impossible to achieve the 45-day limit”, saying the suggestion is “wholly impractical”.
The union asked the court to give it until 17 March to file its opposition. However, in a minor win for Atlas yesterday, the court instead granted the union only until 7 February to file, and Atlas one more week in which to respond.
It is not the only unfinished case between the pair. In March, the union filed a case claiming that the pilots had been asked to perform various maintenance worker functions, such as starting the engines for maintenance tests.
That case also continues.