The union representing Southwest Airlines' 10,000 pilots is injecting itself into the escalating war of words between the Dallas-based carrier and its mechanics.
In a strongly worded message, pilots union president Jon Weaks accused Southwest Airlines of creating "unnecessary fear and safety concerns in our passengers and the flying public" by declaring an operational emergency. He suggested the company simply wants to outsource more maintenance work because of a "myopic focus on cost control."
Weaks said Tuesday that the intent of the letter was not only to reassure passengers that Southwest's planes are indeed safe, but to point to a shift in company culture.
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“Kelleher’s mantra was take care of the employees, they take care of the customers, that takes care of the shareholders. We tend to work in reverse now. And as president of the pilot’s association, as president of SWAPA, we’ve seen that’s not a good way to do business in the long run," said Weaks.
Southwest did not respond directly to the union's letter, instead reissuing statements released last week saying, "It's not productive to assign blame for the past - everyone involved shares in that to any fair-minded person. What's important is to focus on getting a contract out to our Mechanics for a vote, and for our Mechanics to be informed."
The next chance for negotiation between the mechanics union and the airline is in March.