Delta wants to request mediator for pilot contract negotiations

After nine months of pilot labor-contract negotiations, Delta Air Lines wants to seek mediation.

Delta management told the union that in its view, negotiations had stagnated, according to a memo Ryan Schnitzler, chairman of the Air Line Pilots Association at Delta, sent to pilots last week.

“Management further stated they did not feel that any further negotiating sessions without a mediator present would be productive,” and it canceled scheduled negotiating sessions through February, Schnitzler wrote.

The pilots union is seeking increases in pay and benefits, as well as increased hiring to handle record levels of traffic.

Delta is asking the pilots union to jointly file for mediation services by the National Mediation Board, which governs labor relations at airlines.

The current contract calls for both sides to jointly file for mediation if they had not reached a deal by March 31, 2020. But Delta wants to speed up the process by moving to mediation sooner.

The pilots union and the airline started talks last April. Negotiations have extended beyond the term of the current contract, which does not expire but became amendable Dec. 31, 2019.

Delta issued a statement saying it believes jointly filing for mediation would allow for more productive conversations and could result in a more timely agreement. It’s also possible for one side to file.

It's not the first time mediation has come up in Delta pilot contract talks. The two sides went into mediation during labor talks in 2016.

Schnitzler wrote in his memo that the union had intended to continue negotiations between the two parties, and he believes a deal could have been achieved by March 31.

But the union also said that the company has only agreed to $28 million in contract improvements. “This is unacceptable,” Schnitzler added. Some of the biggest dollar figure sections have yet to be negotiated.

“Instead of negotiating, the Company has chosen to walk away,” he wrote.

Delta said it is committed to continuing industry-leading total compensation and quality-of-life improvements.

During a particularly busy summer last year, pilots worked record amounts of overtime, the system was strained and more pilots called in fatigued, according to the union.

The company said it is serious about reaching an agreement that recognizes its pilots for the contributions they while also positioning Delta to continue its strong momentum.

The union’s leadership is meeting this week to discuss a response to Delta’s request that the union join the application for mediation.