The leaders of the pilots union at Delta Air Lines Inc. have ratified a tentative agreement, endorsing concessions that include an initial 14 percent wage cut and assurances the union won’t block any company effort to terminate its pension plan.
The vote by the leadership was 12-1 in favor of ratification, according to a memo sent late Friday to pilots, who will be asked to approve it.
The agreement was reached between the nation’s third-largest carrier and union negotiators on April 14, clearing one hurdle for Atlanta-based Delta by avoiding a crippling strike.
Now comes what could be the harder part — getting the airline’s 5,930 pilots, who came to the brink of a walkout, to approve the deal.
Union leaders had been meeting since Wednesday in New Orleans to discuss the agreement.
The deal represents “a concessionary agreement,” Lee Moak, chairman of the union’s executive committee, told pilots.
But, he said, “Our goal throughout the Chapter 11 process has been to reach a comprehensive consensual agreement that will lead to our working for a profitable airline with long-term viability that protects the major terms of our (contract) and that provides strong returns for our sacrifices. I believe this agreement meets that goal.”
Pilots to vote next month
The balloting will begin in mid-May and will remain open for 15 days.
Delta spokesman Bruce Hicks said the company would release a statement Saturday.
According to the agreement obtained by The Associated Press, effective June 1, pilots’ composite hourly pay rates will be reduced 14 percent from the composite hourly pay rates that were in effect on Dec. 14.
But on Jan. 1, composite hourly pay rates will be increased 1.5 percent. Further pay increases are included in later years of the revised contract.
Delta, which filed for bankruptcy in September, has said its pilots who worked all of last year made an average of $157,000.
The agreement also says that in the event of termination of the Delta Pilots Retirement Plan, the pilots’ defined contribution plan will be amended to provide a single company contribution rate equal to a flat 9 percent of earnings.
The total value of the concessions was not immediately able to be determined because of the complexity of the agreement.
Contract still in limbo
Before the tentative agreement was reached, Delta had been seeking to void its contract with its pilots so it could impose up to $325 million in annual concessions. The union had threatened to strike if the contract was rejected by an arbitration panel.
The panel decision is now on hold with the tentative agreement, but it could resurface if the rank-and-file pilots reject the accord.
Delta’s pilots previously agreed to $1 billion in annual concessions, including a 32.5 percent wage cut, in a five-year deal in 2004. But Delta, which has imposed pay cuts on other employees, said it needed more from its pilots.