LAS VEGAS (CN) - Allegiant Air and its pilots will return to Federal Court Wednesday to try to avoid a strike that the Teamsters local approved in January.
U.S. District Judge Andrew P. Gordon on Friday presided over a daylong hearing on Allegiant's request for an injunction to stop Teamsters Airline Pilots Association Local 1224 from striking. The airline earlier won a temporary restraining order preventing the strike.
"My preference is to avoid a strike," Gordon said in court. "Allegiant is offering something that, on its face, is good."
Gordon said he preferred the pilots work out their differences with Allegiant rather than strike.
The differences come down to two major disputes and one that Gordon described as minor.
The major disputes, Gordon said, are the bidding process for pilot scheduling and a union accusation that Allegiant ignored pilots when changing its scheduling process.
"It appears, at first blush, that the pilots were ignored. That's a major dispute," Gordon said.
Gordon said a dispute over the airline's medical certification program, particularly regarding a specific Allegiant pilot, is a minor dispute.
The union "cannot strike over a minor dispute," Gordon said.
"We're here with respect to major disputes and not minor disputes," union attorney Edward Gleason Jr. told Gordon.
Gleason said the airline has not paid a particular pilot her medical certification program benefits.
Gordon cautioned the union that federal law allows pilots to strike only if Allegiant is not making reasonable efforts to resolve labor issues.
"The parties must make a reasonable effort to settle, not every conceivable effort," Gordon said.
Allegiant attorney Douglas Hall said the airline has made reasonable efforts through arbitration to clarify questionable contract language and abide by it.
"The issue is, 'Did we violate the status quo?' and we sought clarification," Hall said.
To prevent a strike, Hall said, Allegiant is willing to make changes to the scheduling system.
"If the pilots don't want [it], we'll pull it" starting in June and resume the old scheduling system, Hall said. "We want to avoid a strike."
Despite the airline's offer, Gleason said, there still would be a "lack of transparency, seniority and predictability" with the pilot scheduling system.
Gleason suggested an omnibus hearing might help the airline and union reach an agreement that would avert a strike and satisfy the pilots' grievances.
Union and airline officials met during a lunch break to try to reach a deal, but returned with no results.
Allegiant pilots in January voted to strike if the airline did not abide by Gordon's July 2014 injunction that the union says requires the airline to restore the pilots' work rule protections and benefits.
Gordon said his priorities when issuing that injunction were to protect and create "seniority, transparency and predictability."
"If the three aren't satisfied, I'm going to have a problem," Gordon said.
The court adjourned without resolution, but the strike is averted at least until the next hearing on Wednesday.
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