Sun Country pilots unanimously back strike if mediation fails

imagesWith their contract negotiations stuck in a holding pattern, Sun Country Airlines pilots have voted unanimously in favor of authorizing union representatives to call a strike.

The Air Line Pilots Association announced the voting results yesterday, noting that 209 of the 216 eligible Sun Country pilots participated in balloting.

Pilots have been in negotiations with the Mendota Heights-based airline since April 2010, and the two sides began working with a mediator from the National Mediation Board two years later. The pilots’ vote authorizes their leadership to call a strike if a mutually agreeable contract cannot be reached by the completion of the federal mediation process.

In order to go on strike, the NMB would have to declare that additional mediation efforts would not be productive and extend an offer to arbitrate the dispute. If either side declines arbitration, the parties enter a 30-day “cooling off” period, after which they are free to exercise “self-help” – in the pilots’ case, a strike.

In a press release announcing the vote, Sun Country pilots said a strike was the last outcome they want to see.

“We do not want a strike – we want a contract,” Capt. Dennis Vanatta said. “But Sun Country’s new owners have profited and doubled the size of the airline since negotiations began. The airline industry is enjoying its most prolonged period of success in years, and the time has long passed for management to get this done.”

Vanatta, who is chair of the airline’s ALPA Master Executive Council, said Sun Country pilots are the lowest-paid Boeing 737 pilots in the U.S. The longer contract negotiations drag on, the further behind they fall.

“This vote demonstrates with unmistakable clarity the unity and resolve of this pilot group,” Vanatta said. “We hope that Sun Country management does not underestimate the pilots’ determination to achieve a new labor agreement that recognizes this pilot group deserves to be treated on a par with other airline pilots.”

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