Pilot Strikes

UPS strikeTwo pilot associations are in the news for strikes this week: Vereinigung Cockpit (a German pilots' union for Lufthansa and Germanwings) and the Independent Pilots Association (for UPS).

The Lufthansa pilots have extended their strike-their 13th in the past 18 months-to a second day, causing more than 1,000 flight cancellations. In a press release, the company stated its willingness to negotiate with the union:

"Lufthansa remains willing to resume its negotiations on all open collective labor agreement items with the VC's Group Collective Labor Agreement Committee at any time. 'Our goal is still to work with the VC to find a joint solution to all the open CLA issues through the negotiating process,' confirms Dr. Bettina Volkens, Chief Officer Corporate Human Resources of Deutsche Lufthansa AG."

The UPS pilots took out a full-page ad in The Wall Street Journal to express their dissatisfaction with union negotiations. The ad claims, "UPS management has stalled and delayed, unnecessarily prolonging our contract negotiations."

In a statement, UPS management clarifies that, although the union is threatening to strike, it won't happen. The first three paragraphs of the statement follow:

"UPS continues to negotiate in good faith for a contract that is good for our employees, our customers and our company, and we are confident these negotiations will be completed without disruption in our service.

"Despite the IPA's announcement, there is no real threat of a strike. Such authorization votes are routine during negotiations in the airline industry, but they are legally irrelevant under the Railway Labor Act, the U.S. labor law that governs airlines.

"Under the RLA, a strike is not possible unless authorized by the National Mediation Board. Even then, there are a series of fail-safes, including presidential and congressional intervention, designed to prevent an interruption in operations. . . ."

Discussion Starters:

  • What's your view of the IPA's full-page ad in The Wall Street Journal? This is an expensive communication. Is it effective? Who is the audience, and what are the objectives?
  • Assess UPS's full statement. Which are the most and least convincing arguments?