Older issues may surface when Allegiant Air executives, pilots meet in court

When Allegiant Air executives and their pilots meet in court Friday for a judge to hear arguments on a temporary restraining order blocking pilots from striking, issues from an earlier case could be revisited that ultimately could lead to a work stoppage.

When U.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro issued the restraining order last Wednesday, it put the brakes on a walkout organized by APA Teamsters Local 1224 that could have grounded 250 flights and inconvenienced 33,000 passengers at midnight Wednesday.

Navarro also ordered that the two sides meet in U.S. District Judge Andrew Gordon’s court Friday for consideration of an injunction that would quell the strike talk for now.

Allegiant management has been confident that the issuance of an injunction would bring pilots back to the bargaining table in late April to resume long-stalled contract talks that already are under mediation.

Most observers believe that if the talks stall at the next mediation session and the Teamsters seek a release from the mediator, it would give Allegiant management 30 days during a cooling-off period to determine what it would do next.

But the pilots are considering a different tack.

When issues are raised on the injunction, the pilots are expected to bring up a case Gordon ruled on in July.

In November 2013, before Allegiant’s pilots were represented by the Teamsters, a group calling itself the Allegiant Air Pilots Advocacy Group worked with management to establish a series of pilot work rules.

When the Teamsters union was certified as the pilots’ collective bargaining agent, company management threw out the work rules and the union brought suit against the airline to re-establish working conditions that existed prior to August 2012.

The airline, arguing that an agreement with the pilots no longer existed when the Teamsters entered the picture, refused to return to the status-quo arrangement the advocacy group had negotiated.

Gordon ruled in July that management had to re-establish the work rules, but Allegiant management appealed the ruling.

Where the pilots and management are at odds on that issue is over whether the company has complied. The pilots say they haven’t restored the status quo; the company says it has and, in fact, has reported the steps it has taken to the judge.

The previous agreement addressed parental leave policies, light-duty work for pilots losing medical certification and pilot scheduling. The pilot scheduling rules seem to be the biggest point of contention between the two sides.

Since the status-quo work rules aren’t a part of the current mediation between the two sides, they aren’t subject to the same procedures that require a release from mediation and the 30-day cooling-off period.

That’s why pilots are saying that if an injunction isn’t granted, they could walk off the job immediately.

Both sides are confident they’ll prevail in court Friday.

Steve Harfst, chief operating officer of Allegiant Air, said last Wednesday that because Allegiant operates an out-and-back schedule on its flights, pilots depart from their bases, fly to their destinations, then return to their bases on the same day, allowing them to be with their families overnight all the time.

But the pilots argue that once the scheduling rules were thrown out, pilots who were based in Las Vegas were ordered to new East Coast bases and the out-and-back trips would involve flights from Orlando or Clearwater, Fla., to other destinations and then back. Because the pilots rarely get two days off in a row, it was nearly impossible for a Las Vegas-based pilot temporarily assigned to a Florida domicile to get home.

Some pilots say the policy has created a hardship for their families and that some pilots go weeks without ever having the opportunity to go home to their families.

“We’ve exhausted just about every remedy,” said Dan Wells, president of the Teamsters union.

“The judge has ordered that the company put back the policies that had been taken away from us,” he said. “We expect this to be a part of what happens in Friday’s hearing.”

Follow @RickVelotta on Twitter. Contact reporter Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893.

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