ABX-union dispute goes to arbitration

Judge: Strike grounded 1.25 million pounds of cargo

A federal judge in Cincinnati ordered striking Teamsters pilots back to their cargo planes last week, just in time for Black Friday and Cyber Monday goods shipments.

The issue that sent the pilots to picket lines — company-scheduled “emergency” flights that the pilots said were keeping them on the job for far too long — will now go to an arbitration and grievance process, said Joe Hete, chief executive of Air Transport Services Group, which is based in Wilmington.

“First and foremost the judge ruled that the remaining open issue the union raised is a ‘minor dispute,’ so effectively it goes to grievance/arbitration,” Hete wrote in an email to the Dayton Daily News Monday. “Beyond that, should be business as usual.”

The pilots last week struck ABX Air Inc., which is a business unit of Air Transport Services Group (ATSG). The strike grounded plants at Wilmington Air Park and at the DHL hub at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport.

Among the planes grounded were flights for online retail giant Amazon, which is setting up its own air cargo flight network, in part by leasing planes from ATSG in an agreement announced last March.

The judge in the case wrote that the strike caused the cancellation of at least 26 flights for at least four customers carrying some 1.25 million pounds of cargo.

“The court finds that there is no way to calculate the loss of customer goodwill and damage to reputation and that the plaintiff (ABX Air) will suffer irreparable harm as a result,” wrote U.S. District Judge Timothy Black.

On Wednesday evening, Black granted ABX Air a temporary restraining order, ending the strike.

“The public expects that purchases and shipments will be delivered in a timely fashion,” Black wrote. “Accordingly, there is a significant public interest in enjoining defendants’ strike. Absent an injunction, ABX, its customers, and the public will suffer immediate, irreparable harm.”

Added the judge: “Imagine Christmas without Amazon!”

Online sales from Thursday to “Cyber Monday” were expected to hit about $12.7 billion, according to some reports Monday.

Talks on the issue will continue, Hete said.

The CEO said the company and the union, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, are “always” talking.

Asked if the grievance process has begun, Hete said: “Grievances were filed by the union but that will take some time.”

Representatives of the Teamsters did not respond to messages seeking comment.

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