March 9, 2023
It took three pickets with many more to come (#OMAHA23), mobile and stationary billboards deployed in Columbus and beyond, an owner-facing website, a lanyard campaign and an ad in The Wall Street Journal, but it would seem NJASAP has finally gotten the AWOL CEO’s attention. There is quite a bit to wade through in his Tuesday evening letter – a correspondence that was obviously written to divide and conquer – a tired tactic of a management-led FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) campaign.
To begin, I am surprised by the CEO’s surprise as I have been telling him and his EMT for 17 months the pilot group was becoming increasingly frustrated and that sense of discontent has only gathered steam since late last June. You can look back on the last several months of communications to confirm this is only a surprise to the EMT because they have not been listening to a single thing we have been saying.
WE ARE NJASAP
NJASAP is not an entity that exists separate from the pilot group. NJASAP is you and me – THIS PILOT GROUP. The CEO can peddle that drivel all day long, but we see the divide-and-conquer tactic for exactly what it is. Moreover, every single pilot on this property knows your democratically elected leaders move this organization in the direction that follows your preferences as expressed in our various member survey initiatives. Since ratifying the 2018AA, you have directed us to be cooperative, and we were cooperative. Throughout the past year, you have directed us to take a more assertive posture, and we have. By any reasonable standard, 17 months of inaction was more than enough time for management to be responsive to NJASAP’s concerns.
While the single reference to safety in the CEO’s message feels more like a check in the box as opposed to a real interest in discussing the topic, you have to give him credit for staying true to form. Since late 2021, NJASAP has expressed numerous safety- and mx-specific concerns to management, and we have detailed the same to you in a variety of communications. For example, we are concerned about continuous turnover and lost talent in key safety roles in the Safety Department. In addition, the Vice President of Safety reports to Operations rather than the CEO, which we believe flies in the face of Just Culture best practices. Notably, our concerns with department leadership predate the start of the pandemic. And finally, at a time when operational pace is as high as it has ever been, the EMT opts to unilaterally withdraw the fatigue mitigation policy, which most of you used to get a little more rest without creating a cascade of operational repercussions.
More recently, management has embraced a very concerning approach to maintenance as exemplified by the conduct of their Performance Review Program – one that members have described as intimidating and coercive. As discussed in a recent communication, NJASAP will be taking a deeper dive into this concerning trend next week.
Management did not agree to hasten the IBI23 timeline out of the goodness of its heart. Rather, it was a necessary move intended to placate us – a strategy that falls very much in line with what we have seen from this EMT throughout the past 17 months: We have great meetings, but then nothing happens. Zero progress. Crickets.
Your elected leaders have repeatedly explained to the EMT a meeting or series of meetings is not collaboration: It is the steps taken – the ACTION – to address the concern(s) discussed at the meeting that is required. A recent example of this is the crew food LOA: A simple interim agreement NJASAP wrote in DECEMBER that would have addressed concerns shared by a majority of the pilot group is waiting for management’s signature. Importantly, the crew food program gives management the ability to keep metal moving, which leads to greater schedule integrity. But, that is not how the story was relayed to you. Rather, management lied to the recurrent class, indicating they were waiting on the Union. Fast forward a few weeks, and the LOA continues to sit on management’s desk.
Admittedly, we made gains in IBI20, but the world economy and our industry has changed dramatically since that time. Inflation hit a 40-year high, and the pilot labor shortage has reached crisis status. These are two significant factors that differentiate IBI23 from IBI18 and IBI20: Previously, our goal was to develop a package of amendments that were advantageous to both sides. Today, the 2020AA has lost its competitive edge with mainline, ultra-low-cost and regional carriers making extraordinary gains. Our intent in this negotiation is to achieve parity with our peers, remaining a career destination rather than watching NetJets become a third- or fourth-tier carrier. And that is advantageous to NetJets as well.
To date, management has been less than receptive to our Negotiators’ QOL-specific concepts, voicing interest only in our § 27: Compensation proposal. As the Negotiators have explained – and the Executive Board agrees – the EMT wants to limit these negotiations to money, but IBI23 must be about more than hard dollars. We are seeking QOL gains that help smooth out the hard edges of our tours. Once we start bargaining § 27, every other enhancement we seek will be viewed through the lens of that section.
As suggested in our ad in The Wall Street Journal (WSJ), management has its head in the sand about many things, including the pilot group’s intent to secure QOL gains in IBI23. When management negotiators work with our Negotiators to substantively address our concepts, then we will move on to § 27 and not before.
CBA Duration Note
The pilot labor crisis has facilitated a sea change in the duration of collective bargaining agreements (CBA) across the industry. Market forces have required many groups to offer enhancements out of cadence with the codified duration. NetJets is no different in that regard: When market forces change dramatically, CBAs must be amended to reflect the new landscape.
Our current compensation model makes it easy to paint a very compelling picture based on a very small sliver of carefully chosen data points. The broader consideration is this: We do not control our schedules, which means our compensation can vary wildly from one pay period to the next. Additionally, how many days did we have to work to make the salaries he references? If it takes you and me 20 duty days to make what a Delta pilots makes in 10, well, that is not parity. While soft money has been very lucrative, we are in the hunt for hard wage gains – big ones.
THE SCARE TACTIC
Two of the EMT’s most effective weapons – especially when it comes to forcing our newer members to get back in line – are fear for the job/future progression and uncertainty in your labor advocate. Growth through hiring and taking delivery of new airframes is a very serious matter. For those of us who waited 13-plus years to upgrade – and I am one of those people – prolonged upgrade times are extraordinarily painful. But …
Let’s be real about this: Right now, most anyone on the seniority list could go almost anywhere else and 1) make more money, 2) upgrade within a year or hire directly into a PIC position at a regional carrier, and 3) count on a guaranteed flow to a major. This is not secret information, which makes the CEO’s decision to play this particular card a real head-scratcher. In many ways, it perfectly illustrates the extent to which our EMT is detached from the realities of the marketplace. #HeadInTheSand
In the many months leading up to this season, EMT members suggested if the relationship between the parties became contentious, then NetJets would have to cancel aircraft orders. While this is easy to say, it is a bit harder to pull off given, according to management, all aircraft are sold through 2024. Is the EMT really going to tell Owner X he can’t get his share in a Longitude because the pilots want, as one example, a crew food LOA? I think we both know the answer to that question.
When the EMT forced our hand and our public campaign began, it was not news to them. Quite the contrary, I have expressed to the EMT time and again that absent definitive action to address pilot concerns this – lawful, public-facing campaigns – would be the outcome. The CEO + EMT can feign surprise all day, but they knew the inevitability of the moment to come. I never once minced words in this regard.
Why they chose to ignore us is puzzling. NJASAP’s history as a labor organization confirms we say what we mean, and we mean what we say. The massive murals in our pilot meeting room tell that tale. The EMT knew where this would ultimately go and chose to bury their head in the sand anyway.
Our public outreach is both present and future focused. We are seeking gains that reinforce our position in the marketplace today and in the years to come. If NetJets has any hope of retaining the talent currently on property and attracting talented aviators to join us in the months and years to come, it must be competitive with our Part 121 peers.
We are already seeing how the EMT’s obsession with cost controls is ravaging the business: Turnover is rife in almost every department that supports flight operations. From Owner Services to Strategic Operations a massive amount of institutional knowledge has been lost. Our Dispatchers who, despite being some of the lowest paid in the industry, were recently offered a one percent pay increase and a piece-work scheme that undermines safety by linking their pay to how many flight releases they produce.
We are fighting very hard to keep NetJets from becoming a third- or four-tier carrier – a tragic fall from grace that could become our reality absent definitive action by the EMT. We, you and I, have worked insanely hard to make NetJets a career destination, and NJASAP will not stand by and watch a short-sighted, penny-pinching EMT fritter that away. To that end, we view their inaction as far more detrimental to the brand’s viability and growth than a few advertisements in The WSJ. To that end, if the EMT is so offended by NJASAP’s efforts to publicize the problems at the fractional, then perhaps they should make different decisions.
NJASAP, for 17 months, has worked with focus and intention to mitigate pilot concerns even as the EMT grew increasingly tone-deaf. We, the Executive Board and I, stand by NJASAP’s untiring efforts to effect change for our members, and unreservedly confirm the many conversations emphasizing the Membership’s waning patience with the EMT’s lack of responsiveness. Nothing that is happening right now should come as a surprise to anyone – least of all the CEO and his EMT.
Ultimately, the EMT is setting the tone and tempo for IBI23. We could very likely hammer out an agreement in a day’s time if they were truly ready to make a deal. But, they have yet to make that signal. So, until then, NJASAP will continue to exercise all lawful options at its disposal to enhance the 2020AA in a way that meets the Membership’s needs and restores NetJets’ competitive edge today and into the future.
And that brings me to my final point: We stand by our analogy that the EMT has its head in the sand. Suggesting this pilot group should be fine with working excessively long duty days on excessively long tours for the same amount of money earned in a fraction of the same time by a legacy peer is patently absurd. This marketplace does not support that philosophy, and neither should management. You can count on NJASAP to help reshape this mistaken perception amid a deepening pilot labor crisis.
Capt. Pedro Leroux