- The Washington Times - Friday, September 28, 2007

More than 50 US Airways pilotspicketed outside Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport yesterday, holding signs and marching silently as they demanded “equal pay for equal work.”

US Airway pilots have been waiting for a contract that would give them the same pay as America West pilots since America West Airlines bought the bankrupt Arlington carrier two years ago.

Jack Stephan, chairman of US Airways’ master executive council, said he was tired of the poor treatment the company is giving to US Airways pilots.

“They provided us insulting proposals that if we were to accept we would have sold our souls to the devil,” Mr. Stephan said.

“What’s so unreasonable to demand equal pay for the same job? All we’re asking for now is to be paid the same. Shame on anyone who doesn’t come on board with our equal pay for equal work.”

On the two-year anniversary of the purchase, the pilots took turns marching in the 90-degree, midday heat while dressed in their navy blue uniforms. They marched in sync without sign of discomfort and didn’t move out of place during the two-hour protest, not even to wipe the sweat from their foreheads.

“We’re pleased with the turnout. We’re very pleased with the resolve of our pilots and their leadership. We’re not going away. We’re going to keep doing this and other events to get attention,” Mr. Stephan said.

When US Airways went bankrupt, pilots agreed to give up their retirement benefits to help stabilize the company instead of losing their jobs. Their retirement, totaling $6.8 billion, was to be repaid when US Airways emerged from bankruptcy. US Airway pilots also took an 18 percent pay cut and are making $20,000 to $30,000 less annually than America West pilots, they say.

US Airways offered the pilots a 17 percent pay increase in May, which would offset the pay difference between the two airlines.

James Ray, a pilot for 24 years, called the offer “ridiculous.”

“They’re saying, ‘You’re under contract. We offered you parity.’ They made us an offer that would bring us up to the same pay rates as the America West pilots, but it had so many strings attached that it would have been suicide.”

The offer included less health care coverage, lower retirement benefits and disadvantages in trip scheduling, he said.

“We offered our former US Airways pilots a pay increase to the higher scales paid to former America West pilots — plus 3 percent for both groups — in May,” the company said yesterday. “We”ve received no counteroffer from ALPA four months later. We agree that all of our pilots should be paid at the same pay scales, but that can”t happen until there are meaningful negotiations on a combined contract.”

The average annual income for an airline pilot was $140,380 in May 2006, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

“We support them in their efforts, but we think that they’re shooting the bar too low. We find it kind of sad that they are picketing for pay parity,” said Tania Bziukiewicz, spokeswoman for the America West unit of the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA).

US Airways Chief Executive Officer “Doug Parker has gotten all the blood out of this rock that he’ll ever, ever get,” Mr. Stephan said. “Those days are done. Now it’s payback time, and [US Airways pilots] want it now.

“This pilot group has nothing to lose. People who have nothing to lose are capable of great things.”

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