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Negotiations between Southwest Airlines and the union representing its pilots, Southwest Airlines Pilots Association (SWAPA), have seemingly reached an impasse. Despite the lack of progress towards an agreement, the National Mediation Board has now decided that negotiations must continue, preventing a potential strike.
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The SWAPA submitted a request in July to federal mediators to pause negotiations with airline management. The request denial means that the union will be forced to negotiate. Captain Casey Murray, SWAPA President, told Bloomberg, “We are further away today than the day we filed for release, which is truly the definition of an impasse.”
According to Simple Flying, Southwest management claims that they have made “scheduling adjustments to address workplace quality-of-life issues for our pilots.” SWAPA disagrees, noting that pilot fatigue is only getting worse. The union also stated that it offered solutions to the systemic failures that caused the mass cancellation meltdown last December. Meanwhile, Southwest has threatened to furlough over 1,200 pilots as it hands out $4 million in stock compensation to executives.
If the request was accepted, there would have been a 30-day cooling-off period before the next stage. The dispute would have gone before a Presidential Emergency Board or escalated to a strike. Talks seemed to be hurtling towards a strike after a SWAPA strike authorization vote in May passed with 99 percent of participating pilots voting in favor. Now, the pilots are forced to stay at the table, keep flying and generate revenue for the airline.