The pilots union at NetJets says the company is violating federal labor law as they ratchet up their dispute with the world’s largest private jet operator.
The NetJets Association of Shared Aircraft Pilots filed a lawsuit against NetJets in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, according to a press release from the union.
The lawsuit accuses NetJets of attempting to suppress union-related pilot speech in violation of federal labor law.
NJASAP represents the 3,000-plus pilots employed by NetJets, Inc.
NJASAP said it filed the lawsuit yesterday “in response to NetJets’ threat to discipline or to discharge pilots for referring aircraft owners and customers to the union’s www.GenuineQS.com website when they ask questions about contract negotiations.”
The NJASAP-sponsored site features articles questioning the company’s commitment to safety and its ability to retain experienced aviators.
For example, one report writing about a proposal from the pilots to address concerns about fatigue states, “NetJets management refuses to participate in an industry-standard program that benefits the pilot, the operation, and the owner.”
In another piece about future pilot attrition, an article titled “Failure to get in the air” states, “NetJets owners deserve more than flying in the back of a flight school aircraft.”
The union says the website “provides visitors with information about the sustained U.S. pilot shortage, the status of negotiations between the parties, and how career earnings at NetJets compare to the airlines.”
According to the release, on March 8, 2023, NetJets Chief Operating Officer Alan Bobo emailed NetJets pilots accusing them of violating the carrier’s work rules.
Union representatives said they asked NetJets how pilots should respond if asked questions about contract negotiations and related issues.
NJASAP says NetJets refused to answer the union’s questions and did not lift the ban on speaking about the website.
“The aircraft owners and customers we fly engage our pilots in conversations every day, including about their jobs and a wide variety of other topics,” NJASAP President Capt. Pedro Leroux said.
He continued, “It is only natural that they would ask us for basic information about our current labor dispute when they see picketers. Referring to a union website is a professional and legal way to respond to their questions. We believe NetJet’s discriminatory ban on union-related speech is unprofessional and illegal.”
The press release also references an email from NetJets’ President of Sales, Marketing, and Service, Patrick Gallagher.
It alleges on April 19, Gallagher allegedly “sent an email to hundreds of NetJets employees claiming the pilot union’s leadership is out of touch with its members.”
The release says, “Gallagher’s email, sent the same day that more than 350 NetJets pilots engaged in an informational picket at the air carrier’s Columbus, Ohio headquarters, also accuses NJASAP and unions at unnamed airlines of raising safety issues ‘when negotiations heat up’ as part of what he referred to as ‘the union playbook.'”
In the lawsuit, NJASAP calls it false, reckless, and part of a campaign to undermine the pilot union and its elected leadership in violation of the Railway Labor Act.
However, Gallagher may have a point.
In 2017, the union representing the pilots of American Airlines filed a grievance accusing the airline of violating fatigue risk management policies.
Pilots at Southwest and other airlines questioned safety at their carriers last year as they also sought raises.
“NJASAP stands ready to resolve our disputes with NetJets in the best interest of pilots, the company we work for, and the people who depend on us for world-class safety and service,” Leroux said. “What we will not stand for is an attack on our members’ workplace speech rights or their federally protected right to elect union leaders without management interference.”
A spokesperson for NetJets did not respond to a request for comment.
Both are seeking pay raises.
A copy of the lawsuit was not readily available.