May 1 (Reuters) – North American pilots took new steps Monday to push for gains in the workforce, as American Airlines Group (AAL.O) pilots backed a strike mandate and Air Canada pilots backed a merger with a larger airline. union.
American Airlines pilots agreed to delegate ahead of the busy summer travel season to increase pressure on the Texas-based carrier for a contract, though the chances of them leaving the job remain slim.
The Allied Pilots Association (APA), which represents about 15,000 American Airlines pilots, held a vote on authorizing the strike in April, even as the two sides came close to an agreement in principle.
The union said in a statement that more than 96% of the members of the Parliamentary Assembly had voted and more than 99% voted in favor of authorizing the strike.
“We remain confident that the agreement for our pilots is within reach and can be completed quickly. The finish line is in sight,” American Airlines said in a statement.
Separately, the majority of the estimated 4,500 pilots who fly for Canada’s largest airline voted 84% on an agreement in March to merge with the Airline Pilots Association (ALPA), the two unions said in a statement confirming earlier reports by Reuters.
The merger with ALPA, the world’s largest pilots’ association with more than 60,000 members, is beneficial in part to provide additional bargaining resources. The Air Canada pilots are not currently in negotiations.
The ALPA Executive Board will first need to ratify the merger on May 17. An Allied spokesperson said American Airlines pilots are also considering a merger with ALPA, with discussion coming up in early June.
North American pilots are pushing for better salaries and working conditions as carriers struggle to provide staff to meet the growing demand for post-COVID-19 travel. But some airline executives warn that the huge increases will inflate fixed costs and make it more difficult to repair debt-ridden balance sheets.
WestJet Airlines, Canada’s second largest carrier, which announced it has completed its acquisition of leisure airline Sunwing Airlines on Monday, is facing bargaining pressure from its pilots who authorized the strike as early as May 16.
By contrast, it would be difficult for American Airlines pilots to leave because of a complex labor process in the United States that makes it difficult for airline workers to strike.
In March, Delta Air Lines (DAL.N) pilots signed a new contract that includes $7 billion in cumulative pay and benefits increases over four years.
The US carrier’s chief executive said the carrier is willing to match the pay rates and profit-sharing formula offered by rival Delta in its new contract.
Reporting by Alison Lambert in Montreal and Priamvada C in Bengaluru; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu
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