Picketing pilots demand a new contract - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Picketing pilots demand a new contract

August 14, 2007

Albany -- Pilots with Delta Connection Atlantic Southeast Airlines pulled into Southwest Georgia Regional Airport Tuesday, but it was not by plane.

They're traveling in a caravan to picket over five years of failed contract negotiations.

ASA pilots were carrying picket signs outside Southwest Georgia Regional Airport, voicing their concerns over five years of failed contract negotiations.

ASA pilot Capt. Rick Bernskoetter said, "Our pilots are fed up. Our pilots are sick and tired of five years of negotiating with a management that refuses to engage with us, and refuses to actually roll this deal up, and get this contract ratified."

ASA's 1,600 pilots are currently working under a contract negotiated in 1998. Negotiation failures have lead to upwards of 200 pilots leaving the airline in just 2007 alone. This has also hindered the recruiting of qualified pilots.

Bernskoetter asks, "Why would anyone want to come to work for a company who obviously cannot negotiate a contract with its pilot group after five years? And why would anyone want to stay here?"

The pilot shortage has caused major ASA flight delays with only 56% of their flights arriving on time in the month of June. These delays have affected thousands of passengers who rely on ASA for business and travel.

"If this contract does not get ratified or we do not get this deal done, and we have to take this thing to the ultimate next step, then service could be disrupted here," warns Bernskoetter.

With 12 disputed issues ranging from job security to fair compensation, ASA pilots will go to the table to negotiate their contract for the 290th time since 2002 on August 28th. A date they hope an agreement will be met with management.

"We issue this challenge to our management - come to the table and surprise us. Come to the negotiating table August 28th and be ready to negotiate this deal," says Bernskoetter.

Just shy of 300 failed negotiations, perhaps the 290th time will be a charm for ASA and it's pilots.

ASA pilots will continue their airport picketing tour Wednesday in Dothan. It will be the third of six stops.

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