After years of contentious labor negotiations, Southwest Airlines and its pilots’ union have finally reached a tentative agreement on a new labor pact. Sources close to the negotiations say the proposed deal will provide the pilots with an industry-leading pay package, improved working conditions, and greater job security. The agreement still needs to be ratified by the majority of the union’s approximately 9,000 members, but, if approved, it would end more than four years of negotiations.
Southwest Airlines and the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) first began working on a new labor agreement in April 2016, following an impasse in their negotiations for a new contract. The two sides have clashed over pay, work rules, job security, and other issues. Until recently, the impasse had been far from resolved, with both sides refusing to budge and publicly disagreeing on key points.
The negotiations changed course in late February when the union agreed to reopen the talks. Since then, both sides have worked hard to bridge the remaining gaps and finally reach a deal. The new contract is said to provide an industry-leadingpay raise for Southwest pilots, while ensuring greater job security and improved working conditions. It also provides a mechanism for additional retroactive pay increases, which could result in additional pay for pilots going back to 2016. The agreement also removes certain restrictions on pilots’ ability to move into other aircraft types.
Although details of the agreement have not been disclosed, sources say the deal is a significant step forward in ensuring pilots’ interests are represented and advances the airline’s objectives. The deal must be approved by a simple majority of the union’s members. The process could take up to two months. If approved, the contract will go into effect immediately.