At least 27,000 Delta employees are taking unpaid leave. Ground employees are taking a 25% pay cut. However Delta’s pilots are saying no to reduced pay.
Delta’s pilots are unionized. Flight attendants and mechanics are not. While non-union employees at Delta have done well in recent good economic times there have been growing efforts to unionize, especially among flight attendants, and Delta’s efforts to push back have been tone deaf at times.
The airline can impose changes on work rules and pay on its non-union employee groups that it cannot on its pilots. They could engage in furloughs of pilots (although there are restrictions), and use that as a lever to extract concessions similar to what they’ve imposed on other work groups, but taking a government bailout is going to prevent them from doing so.
Taking CARES Act money places restrictions on Delta’s ability to furlough employees through September 30.
- Accepting payroll grants requires the airline not to furlough workers
- Accepting subsidized loans requires the airline not to furlough more than 10% of employees
Delta can’t take government money and furlough pilots. Without the ability to furlough pilots they can’t get pilots to agree to cuts. And pilots getting full pay while everyone else suffers is going to make it hard for Delta to make the case to other work groups to remain non-union.
The pilots union has, reportedly, been willing to negotiate – but not accept similar terms as other workers. And Delta can’t be seen to give pilots a better deal, even though pilots at American Airlines are getting a much better deal than other work groups at American Airlines because they’re pilots, which is to say they’re harder to replace when times turn back around and pilot job actions can cripple an airline.