Judge Orders Striking Pilots to Return to Work
On Tuesday, just two days before Thanksgiving, roughly 250 ABX Air pilots went on strike, affecting more than 75 flights during the busy shopping season.
ABX Air, whose customers include Amazon and DHL, have been severely understaffed for the past two years, which has forced many pilots to work on their off days, according to its union.
However, the strike was short-lived, lasting less than 40 hours; during an emergency court hearing held on the following day, a federal judge issued a temporary restraining order to block the strike, ordering all ABX pilots to return to work. The judge labeled it as just a “minor” dispute, and told the two parties to settle it through arbitration.
“The situation has risen to the level where the company is illegally violating its contract with pilots by not allowing them to take contractually obligated compensatory time for the forced extra work,” a union representative said. “Throughout the year and now, especially during the 4th quarter, ABX has been forcing its pilots to fly flights because it had intentionally short-staffed its operations in the face of increased customer demands.”
“I can’t tell you how many birthdays, family events, anniversaries and even funerals our pilots have had to miss because of all these emergency flights,” said Rick Ziebarth, and ABX pilot.
According to U.S. District Judge Timothy Black, the strike was illegal as “there is no binding past practice that requires ABX to allow crewmembers to freely decide when to advise ABX of their choice of [vacation] days.”
Black also said the damage caused by the strike would’ve been irreparable not only to the airline, but also to the public.
“The public expects that purchases and shipments will be delivered in a timely fashion,” Black wrote. “Absent an injunction, ABX, its customers, and the public will suffer immediate, irreparable harm. Imagine Christmas without Amazon!”