An arbitrator ruled in favor of Atlas Air in a labor dispute with pilots Aug. 26, handing the New York-based cargo carrier a major victory as it seeks to integrate Atlas and Kentucky-based Southern Air pilot groups under one contract. 

The arbitration decision affirms that merger provisions in the Atlas collective bargaining agreement (CBA) apply in connection with Atlas Air’s acquisition of Southern Air in April 2016.

Atlas pilots—represented by the Teamsters Union Local No. 1224—had been hoping to negotiate a new contract, but now must follow a court-imposed arbitrated contract process instead.

The arbitration board ordered the union to submit an integrated seniority list covering Atlas and Southern pilots to the company within 45 days, before entering a nine-month bargaining period for a joint CBA. Any issues that remain after the period expires will be resolved through interest-based arbitration. 

The ruling follows a separate proceeding from June in which the union was also found to be in violation of the Southern Air CBA for refusing to follow merger provisions spelled out in that contract.

In July, a three-judge panel from the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia separately affirmed a federal district court ruling ordering the union to end a work slowdown by Atlas pilots that included excessive sick calls on short notice and refusing to work overtime.

Atlas VP and CCO Debbie Coffey told ATW in an emailed statement the company remains “committed to working collaboratively with the union leaders on all remaining open sections of the agreement, including adding additional bargaining dates to move the process forward.”

“We urge the union to now fulfill its responsibilities in this process by providing a comprehensive economic proposal and an integrated seniority list, as required in the arbitrators’ decisions. The company has made repeated requests for this information and continues to wait for it to be shared,” Coffey added.

Responding to the ruling, recently retired Atlas pilot and union leader Robert Kirchner said in an emailed statement that the union “will pursue all remaining legal options to avoid a contract that is resolved by an arbitrator and that robs pilots of their right to vote on it and ratify it as needed.”

He added: “Pilots have witnessed a short-sighted litigation war that’s caused their faith in management to deteriorate completely. The company must do right by all invested parties—current pilots, future pilots, investors—and settle a fair, industry-standard contract now.”

Ben Goldstein, ben.goldstein@aviationweek.com