As the busiest travel periods of the year draw near, nearly 15,000 pilots at Delta Air Lines have authorized a strike.
The vote comes as negotiations for a new contract were postponed at the start of the pandemic and resumed in January. The authorization does not mean a work action has begun or will begin, but does put pressure on Delta as the two sides work for an agreement.
The odds of a strike during the holidays appear slim. In order for that to happen, talks would have to break down and the National Mediation Board would have to conclude that future attempts would be a waste of time. After a 30-day “cooling-off” period, the strike (or a management lockout) could begin.
Delta and its pilots’ union haven’t renegotiated pay or benefits since 2016. Negotiations began in April 2019, and entered mediation in February 2020. They were paused the next month and did not resume until January of this year.
“Delta has rebounded from the pandemic and is poised to be stronger than ever, posting record revenues for the third quarter,” said Capt. Jason Ambrosi, chair of the Delta Master Executive Council, in a press release. “Meanwhile, our negotiations have dragged on for too long. Our goal is to reach an agreement, not to strike. The ball is in management’s court.”
Delta, in a statement of its own, said the move was a negotiating tactic and that “significant progress” has been made in talks, with only a few issues left to resolve. The carrier said it did not anticipate operations would be affected.
“ALPA’s stated purpose for the vote is simply to gain leverage in our pilot contract negotiations,” a company spokesperson told Fortune. “We are confident that the parties will reach an agreement that is fair and equitable, as we always have in past negotiations.”
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