Delta pilots during picketing earlier this year amid negotiations. Source: Air Line Pilots Association

Delta pilots approve new contract with 30% raises

Delta Air Lines pilots have voted to approve a new labor contract that includes raises of 30.2 percent over four years.

Of pilots eligible to vote, 82 percent voted in favor in online voting this month that wrapped up Thursday.

The 13,000 pilots at Atlanta-based Delta will get immediate pay raises of 18 percent when the contract takes effect, retroactive to Jan. 1, 2016.

They’ll get an additional 3 percent raise in 2017, followed by another 3 percent raise in 2018 and a 4 percent raise in 2019.

The Air Line Pilots Association union at Delta has been pushing for raises to make up for pay cuts of as much as 50 percent that pilots sustained during the company’s financial struggles and bankruptcy a decade ago.

“The ratification of this new contract ensures Delta pilots remain among the very top of airline pilot wages earners and recognizes the value we bring to the recent unprecented success of Delta Air Lines,” John Malone, chairman of Delta’s ALPA unit, wrote in a letter to pilots released with the vote results.

Airline and union officials as well as investors have been anxiously awaiting the vote, after pilots soundly rejected an earlier tentative deal last year.

That deal included raises of more than 21 percent over three years, and profit sharing and sick leave provisions also were cited by pilots who voted it down. The defeat led to a change in union leadership and Malone’s election.

During negotiations earlier this year, union members picketed at airports, at Delta’s Atlanta headquarters and at the company’s annual shareholder meeting. Pilots are the only major unionized employee group at Delta, and the finalization of the new contract eases the risk of labor unrest at Delta.

The pilots union leadership voted 15-4 to recommend the tentative agreement for approval.

Steve Uvena, the union negotiating committee chairman, acknowledged to members after the deal was reached: “It’s not everything in every area that we want, but it’s very good.”

Opponents including Tim Caplinger, who has been running an organizing campaign to establish an independent union, had said the contract included concessionary terms and did not restore the value of retirement, medical benefits and work rules lost in the past.

The Delta pilots deal also raises the pay bar for the industry.United Airlines pilots have a “me too” clause in their contract that stipulates they receive raises if Delta pilots get higher pay, and it could affect other airlines’ pilot contracts over the long term.

PILOT PAY

Typical pay for pilots of three aircraft in Delta’s fleet. Figures shown are annual pay currently; when the new contract takes effect; and in 2019 after all raises take effect:

777

Captain: $271,790; $320,710; $353,850

First officer: $169,250; $199,720; $220,360

757

Captain: $227,500; $268,450; $296,190

First officer: $169,250; $165,770; $182,890

MD88

Captain: $206,730;$243,940; $269,150

First officer: $127,230; $150,130; $165,640

Note: Annual pay is based on 12 years seniority and 1,000 hours. Actual amounts vary.

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