By Charlie Bartlett 18/05/2023
Unless the company agrees to their demands, the pilots of FedEx Express look set for industrial action, after a strike vote succeeded by a landslide.
According to Air Line Pilots Association International (ALPA), the FedEx pilots’ representative, 97% of union members participated in the vote, and 99% voted for a strike: an “undeniable message”.
“Today, FedEx pilots spoke with a unified voice and sent a clear message to management that we are willing to go the distance to secure a new contract,” said Chris Norman, chair of the FedEx ALPA master executive council.
However, FedEx contends that it is already making every effort to negotiate.
“We are still in productive negotiations with our pilots, under the supervision of a government-appointed mediator, and will return to the bargaining table next week,” stated the FedEx website yesterday.
It added: “FedEx is focused on reaching a comprehensive agreement and remains committed to bargaining in good faith with our pilots to achieve an agreement that is fair to them, our other team members and all other FedEx stakeholders.”
Somewhat more combative, however, was the company’s response to the strike authorisation vote – which it seems to have deemed a PR ploy.
“While strike authorisation votes are a common tactic for labour organisations during Railway Labour Act negotiations, strikes are only possible with the express permission of the National Mediation Board,” said FedEx
The act stipulates that strikes are illegal unless the board deems that talks are unproductive, and a strike can only take place after a one-month cooling-off period. However, ALPA said mediated talks had been taking place since October.
The FedEx pilots’ contract has been in contention since May 2021, when the previous contract expired. FedEx appears already to have conceded to an adjustment of the pilots’ retirement plans this year. According to the MEC, these are the first changes to retirement plans since 1999.
Pilots are in high demand in the US, after the FAA increased the minimum required flying hours to 1,500, a prohibitive cost of entry for many. Though pilot pay is high, the astronomical cost of tuition loans takes a serious chunk out of pay packets.