In what could be a fatal blow to Northwest Airlines, the bankruptcy judge told them to keep negotiating with the pilots union, while the union says that if the contract is thrown out, they will strike. A strike at this stage would destroy the company, putting thousands out of work, including the striking pilots.
I can understand the frustration of the pilots. They have typically flown military or training schools for very little money and at great risk to get a position with the major airline. They have built their futures on the notion that they will have a certain pay scale. And now it is being ripped out from under them.
But the reality is that the marketplace will not allow the airlines to charge what they previously did. For an airline to be profitable, and why own a unprofitable business, they need to have their costs in line with the marketplace. A major cost is salaries, and they have shown by entering bankruptcy that the business is not sustainable at its present level with their salary structure. So it is a catch 22 for the pilots.
Keep the company working by taking a pay cut that you do not like? Or kill the company and your paycheck by striking? Not a pleasant situation, but as a famous singer said, “sometimes it is better to fold them than hold em.”
Northwest, which filed for bankruptcy protection in September, has said a strike could kill it, which would put pilot pensions at risk.
The carrier also says a strike would be illegal. That’s because airline-union relations are governed by the Railway Labor Act, which lays out a lengthy pre-strike procedure that hasn’t been followed at Northwest. On Wednesday, Northwest said it would seek an immediate injunction if either group tries to strike.
Duane Woerth, president of the Air Line Pilots Association, scoffed at that idea, saying, “How can you be ordered to work when you don’t have a contract?”
While the airline and the unions all said they would rather make a deal, the question remains as to what would happen if the union went on strike in response to the contracts being overturned. Workers at other bankrupt airlines have threatened strikes, but ultimately made deals. via the Washington Post