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Airline Professionals Association - Teamsters Local Union No. 1224

International Brotherhood of Teamsters



FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Tuesday, November 22, 2016
Contact: Denise Luu, denise.luu@berlinrosen.com, (626) 382-6217
Desmond Lee, desmond.lee@berlinrosen.com, (646) 517-1829

In the first pilot strike in six years, PILOTS STRIKE AT ABX AIR, MAJOR CARGO AIRLINE FOR DHL, AMAZON

Approximately 75 flights canceled at start of peak holiday shipping season

As ABX pilots speak out to restore status quo and solve staffing crisis at ABX, pilots from other cargo carriers vow not to cross picket line

WILMINGTON, OH – Approximately 250 pilots responsible for cargo carrier ABX Air’s flying went on strike early Tuesday morning against their employer, ABX Air, Inc., and will not fly scheduled routes, including those for ABX’s major customers DHL and Amazon.

For nearly two years, ABX Air, which is owned by Air Transport Services Group (ATSG), has been significantly understaffed, resulting in pilots continuously being forced to work “emergency” assignments on their off time. The situation has risen to the level where the company is illegally violating its contract with pilots by not allowing them to take contractually obligated compensatory time for the forced extra work. Throughout the year and now, especially during the 4th quarter, ABX has been forcing its pilots to fly flights because it had intentionally short-staffed its operations in the face of increased customer demands. ABX refused to recall pilots who had been furloughed as a result of DHL’s termination of North American operations several years ago. ABX refused to recall those pilots because it did not want to bring them back and pay them at the top of the pilots’ wage scale, as required by the pilots’ contract. ABX instead extinguished those pilots’ recall rights earlier this year and then tried to hire new pilots who would be paid at the bottom of the pilots’ wage scale. ABX management has acknowledged that its penny-wise, pound foolish scheme backfired, as it waited too long to start hiring additional pilots and actually hired too few pilots. Since then, ABX has been forcing its pilots to fly additional trips and disrupting their schedules in an effort to climb out from the staffing hole it dug for itself.

Striking pilots – who are represented by the Airline Professionals Association, Teamsters Local 1224 – are picketing outside of ABX Air’s headquarters in Wilmington and outside DHL’s North American hub, Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG). Earlier this year, pilots at ABX Air and four other cargo carriers that fly for DHL voted with 99 percent support to strike if it should become necessary.

“I take my job as a pilot seriously, and I’m committed to serving ABX Air and our customers, but I’m also a father of a little girl and help care for my aging mother,” said Randy Riesbeck, a long-time ABX pilot. “On numerous occasions I have had to miss my daughter’s school events and previously scheduled medical appointments for my mother, all because ABX Air emergency assigned me to work on a day I had scheduled off. How am I supposed to explain to my daughter why I wasn’t there to see her grow up? How do I explain to my mother that I can’t take her to the doctor?”

The company has been forcing many pilots to work weeks at a time, causing stress and strain among hundreds of veteran pilots who have worked at the company for years. To date in 2016, pilots have been scheduled to cover over 8000 emergency assignment days on days they should have had off. As the airline moves into peak holiday flying season, ABX Air and ATSG are refusing to honor contractual provisions regarding compensatory time and vacation time in order to cover the pilot deficit. This change violates the terms of the company’s agreement with the pilots, which is a violation of the status quo under the Railway Labor Act.

The strike at the start of peak flying season could have a significant impact on the delivery operations of ABX’s customers, which include DHL and Amazon. The carrier operates 45 flights a day for DHL. Amazon customers will also see delays and disruptions. ATSG recently signed a contract with Amazon to fly 20 Prime Air planes by 2018 and is already flying 14 aircrafts – 35 flights a day – for the e-commerce giant.

“I have flown for ABX Air for over two decades and always give my all to provide top level service to our customers. Striking isn’t an easy decision and we regret the inconvenience to our customers, but when ABX Air breaks the law and stretches us so thin that our bodies and families are suffering, we have no other choice,” said ABX Air Captain Tim Jewell who is on strike. “Our airline is facing a staffing crisis because ABX and ATSG executives knew they needed more pilots but chose to put our customers, our fellow employees and our shareholders at risk in a vain attempt to save a buck. ABX Air needs to restore the status quo and hire enough pilots so we can get the job done.”

Pilots at other cargo carriers – Atlas Air, Southern Air, Kalitta Air and Polar Air – are expressing their support for the ABX pilots and are committed to not crossing the picket line, should ABX Air call on them to cover the flights grounded due to the strike.

“Pilots throughout the cargo industry stand united with the brave pilots at ABX Air who are standing up for fair and safe standards for all cargo pilots,” said Daniel C. Wells, an Atlas Air captain and president of Teamsters Local 1224. “ABX Air executives need to stop trying to force ABX pilots to make up for their own mismanagement and get serious about hiring enough pilots to serve their customers.”

ABX pilots and their union have been raising concerns about the staffing crisis at the company and its impact on customers. U.S. District Judge Timothy S. Black confirmed pilots’ concerns in his recent dismissal of a motion from ABX Air and ATSG for a temporary restraining order against the pilots and their union. He wrote in his ruling: “…by the end of the first quarter of 2016, approximately 40 percent of ABX captains and 33 percent of its first officers had already been forced to fly the contractually allowed emergency assignments.”

The last pilot strike in the United States was in 2010 when Spirit Air pilots walked off the job.