Hawaiian Air pilots threaten to strike

LIHUE — With the potential of a strike by Hawaiian Airlines pilots looming, airline officials aren’t worried about it impacting flights.

“Operations are not being affected,” said Alex De Silva, spokesman for Hawaiian Airlines.

Citing low pay, despite a productive year, airline pilots are working with the Air Line Pilots Association to get permission to go on strike, according to a release from ALPA.

“If you see a company that is reaching and recording a record profit, but they’re paying less than airlines in the same tier, you have to ask if that’s fair,” said Hoon Lee, Hawaiian Airlines master executive chairman of ALPA.

For 2015, the company reported a net income of $182.6 million, a year-over-year increase of $113.7 million, according to a release from Hawaiian Airlines.

Plans for the strike began in April 2015, Lee said.

All of the airline’s active pilots — over 600 — are planning on going on strike, he added.

Last Thursday, ALPA’s Hawaiian Airlines Master Executive Council unanimously to conduct a strike authorization ballot, the release said.

The group also asked the union’s national leadership to authorize a $2 million grant from ALPA’s Major Contingency Fund to help pay for pre-strike preparation and other logistical support.

Voting on the strike ballot will begin April 25 and end on May 17. If passed, the ballot will give the Hawaiian Master Executive Council permission to strike once ALPA gets the go ahead from the National Mediation Board, the release said.

The NMB sets a 30-day “cooling off” period. If an agreement cannot be reached within 30 days, the strike will begin at that time, Lee said.

“We’re not lawfully able to do anything until they release us,” he said. “Then they’ll ask us for one last chance opportunity to go into finding arbitration, where the parties can try to dissolve the issue.”

Hawaiian Airlines is hoping mediation between both parties will settle the issue, De Silva said.

“We are currently supporting the federal mediation process in the hopes of reaching an agreement with ALPA under which our pilots will enjoy a combination of pay benefits and work rules that are in line with our competitive position in the industry,” he said. “Every change to work rules and benefits under discussion are in areas where Hawaiian’s pilots currently enjoy better-than-industry-standard terms.”

But the chances of the pilots and the company coming to an agreement are slim, Lee said. He also regrets taking this course of action.

“We don’t want to cause problems, but we want the company to be honest and treat us right,” he said.

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