Southern Air pilots have ratified an agreement with Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings Inc. to improve wages, benefits and working conditions as the pilots and company continue to fight over their contract.
The pilots approved a letter of agreement by a 95 percent majority.
Atlas Worldwide described the agreement as “interim enhancements” to the collective bargaining agreement with Airline Professionals Association, Teamsters Local 1224. The pilots’ union described the deal as an improvement from “dismal wages” and “one of the worst contracts in the industry.”
Atlas Worldwide, a $1.5 billion holding company based in Purchase, acquired Southern Air Holdings in 2016. It has been trying to merge Southern Air employee contracts and operations with its Atlas Air Inc. subsidiary.
Atlas Worldwide is primarily a cargo and charter service that delivers packages, including for companies such as DHL and Amazon. It also operates Titan Aviation Holdings Inc. and is majority owner of Polar Air Cargo Worldwide Inc.
For several years, Atlas Worldwide has been entangled in protracted labor disputes with Atlas Air, Polar and now Southern Air employees.
Southern Air pilots claim they have been working under an outmoded contract that was forced on them in 2012 when the company was in bankruptcy. The new agreement puts them on par with Atlas Air employees, the union said in a news release, “in what is now the low-bar agreement in the industry.”
Atlas Worldwide said in a separate news release that the deal includes a ratification bonus and other terms and conditions comparable to the Atlas Air contract.
The union and company are still fighting over collective bargaining agreements.
Atlas Air and Southern Air sued the union last year, asking federal court to compel pilots to arbitrate contract disputes. The airlines argued that the disputes are minor and must be resolved by arbitration.
The pilots contend that Atlas Worldwide is trying to merge two substandard contracts, rather than bring both up to industry standards. They want the National Mediation Board to assist with contract negotiations.
U.S. District Judge Katherine B. Forrest in Manhattan ruled in favor of Atlas Air and Southern Air on March 13, granting summary judgment and compelling arbitration. The union has filed a notice of appeal.
John W. Dietrich, chief operating officer of Atlas Worldwide, said in the news release that the company remains “committed to completing the bargaining process for a joint contract in a timely manner and in the best interest of all parties.”