WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Pilots at United Airlines and Continental Airlines authorized a legal withdrawal of service pursuant to the Railway Labor Act.
Almost 94 percent of the eligible pilots, represented by the Air Line Pilots Association, International, took part in the ballot, with 99 percent voting in support of a withdrawal of services, if required.
This authorization comes after nearly two years of negotiations for a new joint pilot contract following the merger of United and Continental, announced May 2010.
If the National Mediation Board concludes that further mediated negotiations will not produce an agreement, it could release both sides into economic self-help after the expiration of a 30-day cooling-off period, at which point a strike could ensue.
Capt. Jay Pierce, chairman of the ALPA unit representing the Continental pilots, said "The strength of this vote clearly indicates the level of frustration our pilots have with management's disinterest in reaching a conclusion to negotiations...The merger cannot be completed and the synergies will not be fully realized without completed labor contracts. A strike is never the preferred path to reaching agreement, but our pilots have demonstrated that they realize it may be necessary."
The parties initiated negotiations in May 2010. The parties jointly requested mediation by the NMB in December 2010 and mediated negotiations were initiated on February 28, 2011. The parties have been in mediated bargaining since that time.
The Air Line Pilots Association, International is the largest airline pilot union in the world and represents more than 53,000 pilots at 37 U.S. and Canadian airlines. There are approximately 5,000 pilots at Continental Airlines and an additional 7,000 at United Airlines.