In the latest dust-up en route to a new labor contract, pilots of Tempe-based US Airways are suing each other.
The East Coast-based branch of the union, which represents the US Airways pilots before the carrier’s 2006 purchase by America West Airlines, filed suit this week against their West Coast peers.
The suit contends a merged seniority list completed by an arbitrator and handed over to the Air Lines Pilot Association, which represents both groups, would be “devastating” to East Coast pilots and needs to be scrapped.
Seniority determines pilots’ pay and promotions, and it has become a flashpoint in the explosive negotiations aimed at integrating the two labor groups.
The West Coast pilots say the list is fair and binding, and the suit is wasting pilots’ money and time.
“This divisiveness is going to hurt us all,” said spokeswoman Tania Bziukiewicz
The suit also contains a veiled threat against the Air Lines Pilot Association to stay out of the spat — or else.
The East Coast organization, which represents about 4,000 pilots, implied it might scrap the union itself if it takes the West Coast pilots’ side, or hands the list over to US Airways management as a done deal.
East Coast pilots spokesman Arnie Gentile would not say whether union defection is likely.
“It’s not for me to say. That’s up to 4,000 pilots, who will have to make that decision,” Gentile said, adding that “ALPA runs a huge risk,” if it doesn’t heed the warning.
The West Coast group is only about half as big and likely would lose a combined vote if one was taken to dump the union, Bziukiewicz said.
And neither side could say how that would impact contract negotiations with the airline.
Gentile said the issue has already slowed contract talks because pilots are putting their time and resources into fighting each other rather than the airline.
US Airways is staying out of the melee.
“We are monitoring and observing the pilot seniority integration process with interest, but it is an issue that is governed by our pilots’ labor union, ALPA,” the company said in a statement today. “The company is not a party to the legal action. We would prefer to see the process progress more quickly, but we know that this is an extremely important issue for our pilots and understand their need to pursue all available paths to resolution. Eventually, ALPA will present us with a list.”