Southwest Airlines Dispatchers Not Feeling LUV

By Julie Tam
|  Wednesday, May 18, 2011  |  Updated 4:18 PM CDT
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Southwest Airlines dispatchers picketed the company shareholder meeting Wednesday.

Julie Tam, NBCDFW.com

Southwest Airlines dispatchers picketed the company shareholder meeting Wednesday.

A group of Southwest Airlines employees spent Wednesday picketing outside the company's Dallas headquarters. Dispatchers say they're not happy with the pay Southwest has offered them, while the company considers bonuses for executives.

Dispatchers for Southwest Airlines are hoping to get the attention of the board of directors and shareholders voting on bonuses for executives inside the airline's headquarters.

"Frustrated? Yes. Terribly surprised? No," said Steve Papaila, who has been dispatcher for Southwest for 11 years. "I have no problem whatsoever with our officers being rewarded with the success of Southwest Airlines. I think it's only fair that we participate as well."

More than 180 dispatchers said they've been working without a new contract for 14 years and their pay raises have not kept up with inflation.

"We have been great servant warriors for this last 14 years and kept this company operating efficiently, smoothly, and safely," said Mike Connor, president of the TWU Local 550 union for dispatchers.

Dispatchers are responsible for day-to-day operations and logistics, making sure weather conditions are suitable for flying, calculating how much fuel to put in a plane, and deciding whether to cancel flights.

"We currently have an offer on the table that will put Southwest dispatchers' salaries significantly higher than the industry average of other dispatchers in the commercial airline industry," said company spokesperson Brad Hawkins.

"Well, that would be an incorrect statement, but not surprising given that the company has been consistently wrong with the data," said Connor in response.

Southwest has finished negotiations with most of its unions. Dispatchers just don't want to be left out.

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