Pilots for Alaska Airlines overwhelmingly rejected a tentative agreement, negotiated by their union, that called for less severe pay cuts than those imposed by an arbitrator in April.

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Pilots for Alaska Airlines overwhelmingly rejected a tentative agreement, negotiated by their union, that called for less severe pay cuts than those imposed by an arbitrator in April.


Nearly 90 percent of the pilots voting said “no” to a package that would have limited pay cuts to 20 percent across the board, rather than the 22 percent to 34 percent cuts set by the arbitrator.


Although the union-negotiated tentative agreement offered better wages, it also meant increased health-insurance premiums, potentially less attractive retirement options and more work rule concessions. The union took a neutral stance on the agreement when putting it before the pilots.


“Our pilots were faced with two choices, neither of them good,” said Capt. Mark Bryant, chairman of the Alaska pilots’ union. By rejecting the tentative agreement, “our pilots have unequivocally said their future benefits are worth more than a little extra money in their pockets right now.”


The pilots will continue working under a two-year contract that took effect May 1 after an arbitrator made key decisions about pay and other issues left unresolved between the union and the company.


The tentative agreement would have established a five-year contract with only one pay increase — a 2 percent raise in 2008.


The Air Line Pilots Association, which represents the nearly 1,500 pilots who fly for Alaska, will proceed with a lawsuit it filed in May asking a federal district court to vacate the arbitration award.


In a prepared statement, Alaska Airlines chairman and CEO Bill Ayer said the tentative agreement negotiated by the company and the union would have been “a better long-term option for our pilots.”


“We are disappointed in the outcome of the ratification vote but will move forward under the existing contract established by the arbitrator. Our present pilot contract provides a market-based cost structure that will allow Alaska Airlines to be competitive and pursue future growth.”


Melissa Allison: 206-464-3312 or mallison@seattletimes.com