September 11, 2017
Frontier pilots take first step towards impending strike
Pilots of the Denver-based airline, Frontier, have voted unanimously to taking the first step towards going on strike at a critical time for the carrier. Frontier is in the middle of a substantial national expansion and is making preparations for a public stock offering.
Represented by the Air Line Pilots Association, frontier pilots voted to authorize elected union representatives to walk away from negotiations if talks failed to result in a new collective-bargaining agreement. However, Frontier executives feel that any potential strike would still be months away, or may not even happen, as the union has to obtain a ruling from the National Mediation Board that additional mediation efforts must not be productive, must decline arbitration, or have the airline reject that option. Subsequently, there has to be a ‘cooling off’ period of 30 days.
Six years ago, Frontier pilots were instrumental in the airline avoiding bankruptcy by purchasing an equity stake in the airline in exchange for deferred pay increases, and cuts in their benefits. The airline was sold to Indigo Partners LLC, a private-equity firm which altered the structure of Frontier into an ultra-low-cost carrier. Pilots began negotiations in March 2016, the pilots claiming they were the lowest-paid Airbus pilots in North America.
Earlier this month the negotiations took a turn for the worse after an arbitrator found Frontier guilty of bad-faith bargaining after it reneged on a promise to increase the pilots’ income if profit-margin goals were met. Instead frontier paid out US$237 million in shareholder dividends and management bonuses between 2016 and 2017.