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Why US Airways Pilots Asked Judge to Lift Injunction Against Job Actions

Stocks in this article: AAL

Charlotte, N.C (TheStreet) --- US Airways pilots have asked a federal judge in Charlotte to lift a 2012 injunction that prevented them from engaging in any job actions because a merger with American (AAL) brought an industry standard contract.

Judge Robert Conrad issued the injunction after he agreed with the airline, following a 2011 hearing, that the U.S. Airline Pilots Association had participated in a safety slowdown that resulted in a significant decline in the airline's on-time performance.

In its March 18 filing, USAPA said the injunction has never been violated and that the pilots' situation has changed dramatically because of contract improvements associated with the Dec. 9, 2013, merger with American.

In granting the injunction, "the court specifically found that USAPA's safety campaign and slowdown were 'expressly' tied to its efforts in securing an industry standard contract," the filing said. But now, it said, they have one.

A memorandum of understanding associated with the merger "provides for an industry average pay parity adjustment effective on Jan. 1, 2016, which will bring pay for all the pilots of the merged airline into line with the two other major domestic carriers -- Delta Airlines  (DAL) and  (DAL)United Airlines (UAL) ," the filing said.

Even before 2016, however, the pilot contract was substantially improved. Pay increases that took effect Dec. 9, retroactive to Feb. 8, 2013, provided more than $40,000 annually for 12-year Airbus A320 captains who had flown under the US Airways contract and more than $20,000 annually for pilots who had flown under the America West contract. US Airways and America West merged in 2005, but did not offer a joint contract until the merger with American.

The merger also meant that on Jan. 1, 2014, pay rates for all pilots increased by 8%, the contribution to the defined contribution pension plan increased to 16%, and pilots jointly received a $40 million lump sum payment and no furlough guarantees.

Essentially, the filing asks this question: Why continue to have a permanent injunction preventing a job action when the new contract eliminates the reason the job action was taken? 

It is not stated, but at some point in the future the pilots -- who will become part of Allied Pilots Association, which represents American pilots -- might discern a need for some other job action.

Conrad's injunction provides a laundry list of activities prohibited to USAPA and its members. They include "slow taxiing, writing up all maintenance items, calling in fatigued, delaying flights, refusing to answer calls from scheduling, refusing to fly aircraft that meet the requirements for flight, refusing to accept voluntary overtime flying, and 'permitting, instigating authorizing, encouraging, participating in, approving, or continuing any interference with plaintiff's airline operations, including, but, not limited to any slowdown, strike, work stoppage, sick out, work to rule campaign, or any concerted refusal to perform normal pilot operations in violation of the Railway Labor Act."

USAPA spokesman James Ray said Friday, "We just want the record cleared." An American Airlines spokesman declined to comment.

Written by Ted Reed in Charlotte, N.C.

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