Delta, Continental, Lufthansa, Mesa, Colgan pilots join picketing at United


CHICAGO – Pilots from five airlines joined a picket line of union pilots at United Airlines, a unit of UAL Corp., to protest job outsourcing by airlines around the world. Other United Airlines unions also formed a group of about 200 protesters Wednesday at UAL’s downtown Chicago headquarters.

Pilots are particularly concerned about a new joint venture between United and Aer Lingus Group PLC, which will begin flights between Dulles International Airport and Madrid late this month. Staffing for the flights will be outsourced, signaling a trend in the airline industry that provides profits for airlines, even as they cut jobs, said Wendy Morse, head of United’s Air Line Pilots' Association union.

“Job outsourcing has become a global issue,” she said, noting that United sent a representative to support Lufthansa pilots in Germany during a work stoppage there last month.

United has also substantially increased contract flying with regional carriers, who fly under United’s name.

A spokeswoman from United said the joint venture with Aer Lingus will create 125 U.S. jobs, including for baggagge handlers at Dulles. “We do not consider this to be outsourcing, since we would not have had this business if we didn't form the joint venture,” said Megan McCarthy.

Aer Lingus Wednesday announced details of cost-cutting measures aimed at its cabin crew, or flight attendants.

Pilots from Delta Air Lines Inc., Continental Airlines Inc., Lufthansa, and regional U.S. airlines Mesa Air Group and Colgan Air, a unit of Pinnacle Airlines Corp., joined picketing United Airlines workers Wednesday.

The U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure last week began to look at limiting the scope of cooperative arrangements between two or more U.S. carriers, or between a U.S. and a foreign carrier. HR bill 4788 raised concerns about job outsourcing at airlines.

Also in Washington, D.C., representatives from British Airways PLC flight attendants’ union, UNITE, were set to meet Wednesday with members of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters airline division, which represents workers at a number of U.S. carriers. UNITE is planning a strike at the British airline. “We stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters at UNITE who are fighting for a fair contract at British Airways,” the union said in a statement.

Two unions at American Airlines, a unit of AMR Corp. are moving closer to taking a strike vote, citing stalled federally-mediated contract talks.