FedEx Express and the union representing its pilots announced Wednesday that they jointly filed for federal mediation in relation to their ongoing contract negotiations as the two parties struggle to resolve contract issues over pay and retirement.
Both the company and Air Line Pilots Association, International (ALPA), said the filing with the National Mediation Board is a necessary step for both parties to expedite negotiations. Contract negotiations began in May 2021, and the pilots’ current contract became amendable in November 2021. The union and FedEx Express aimed to reach a new agreement by the end of May 2022.
FedEx stressed in its news release that the invocation of a federal mediator will have no impact on its operations or service to customers. There is no time limit for the mediation process, and the NMB has the authority to decide when and if to end mediation, according to its website.
"97 percent of all mediation cases in the history of the NMB have been successfully resolved without interruptions to public service," according to the NMB, which oversees labor agreements for airlines, railroads, express companies and other entities covered by the Railway Labor Act. "Since 1980, the success rate has been nearly 99 percent."
The FedEx pilots union has been raising awareness about member frustrations over the prolonged negotiations in recent months. Hundreds of pilots, crewmembers and supporters held an informational picket in Memphis, Tennessee, home of FedEx's headquarters, in June. Last week, more than 100 off-duty FedEx Express pilots held an informational picket in New York City's Financial District "to demonstrate their increasing frustrations," according to an ALPA news release.
“The decision to invoke the services of the NMB was not taken lightly,” said Capt. Chris Norman, chair of the FedEx ALPA Master Executive Council, in a statement. “Although we are disappointed with management’s proposals, we remain prepared to work with FedEx under the auspices of federal mediation to achieve a contract that recognizes the collective contributions of FedEx pilots.”
Direct negotiations have helped the parties close eight of the 12 open sections on the contract. However, gaps remain in areas of the contract covering topics such as retirement and pay rates, the ALPA said in Wednesday's announcement.
“We are optimistic that involvement of a federal mediator will assist the parties in expediting the negotiation process and, ultimately, resolving the few remaining issues,” said Don Dillman, FedEx Express senior vice president of air operations, in a statement. “...Mediation is a path we have gone down before and a process that has proved useful.”
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