Strike possible: Frontier's pilots vote to authorize strike amid drawn out contract negotiations

Posted at 10:46 AM, Sep 08, 2017
and last updated 2017-09-08 15:41:27-04

DENVER — Frontier Airlines pilots unanimously voted to approve a strike if the union and airline cannot agree on a plan to raise pilot pay.

Pilots cannot legally strike unless a federal mediation board says both sides are at an impasse. There must also be a 30-day cooling off period.

Union members and leadership say they are unhappy because they are the lowest-paid pilots in North America who fly Airbus planes. They want higher wages and point to recent company profits as justification.

Frontier reported a $200 million profit in 2016.

“This vote shows the deep anger our pilots feel towards the direction set by our management,” said Frontier Airlines Capt. Tracy Smith, who is part of the union.

In order to go on strike, the National Mediation Board, which is helping both sides negotiate, must first decide that additional mediation efforts would not be productive and extend an offer to arbitrate the dispute, according to a statement from the pilots union.  

If either side declines arbitration, the parties enter a “cooling off” period of 30 days. A strike is only possible after that.

Frontier and the union have been negotiating a new contract since March 2016 and have been working with the mediator since October, the union statement said.

Employment law experts say airline strikes in the United States are unusual and say if a strike happens it won’t occur until likely next year at the earliest.

“The pilots will NOT strike until legally permitted to do so, and the company has given us no other choice,” Alan Christie, spokesman for the pilots’ union in Denver, told Denver7 investigative reporter Jace Larson in August when the vote was announced.

The Air Line Pilots Association claims pilots at Frontier earn, on average, 60 percent of what pilots do at other airlines.

Frontier officials say they are confident the two parties can avoid a strike.

"Negotiations with our pilots continue under the guidance of the National Mediation Board," Richard Oliver, with Frontier's corporate communications, said. "A strike will not happen as long as these negotiations are in progress. Frontier remains committed to reaching an agreement that is fair for both our pilots and the company."