Unhappy pilots picket Amazon shareholder meeting

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Amazon investors and board members gathering at the annual shareholder meeting were greeted by pilots flying for Amazon Air contracted carriers raising concerns about working conditions.

The pilots who work for Atlas Air, Southern Air and ABX Air protested outside the meeting on Wednesday 22 May, holding picket signs and running a mobile billboard that declared “Amazon Air pushing pilots to limit risks safety daily”.

Atlas Air and Southern Air are owned by Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings, and ABX Air by Air Transport Services Group, whose major customers include Amazon, DHL and the armed forces.

Captain Robert Kirchner, Atlas Air pilot and executive council chairman for Atlas Air pilots of Teamsters Local 1224 says: “Atlas Air pilots are proud to deliver for a customer as notable as Amazon. But our carrier’s executives are ignoring the reality of our workplace problems if they think we can meet the needs of these expanding business partnerships while hundreds of pilots leave for better opportunities.”

Saying that Atlas Air pilots are overworked, underpaid and disrespected, Kirchner says: “Our planes are not adequately staffed or maintained. The bottom line is right now the future is shaky and we’re misleading customers like Amazon. Atlas Air executives need to sit down and negotiate an industry standard contract with the pilots so we can follow through on our promises to customers.”

Captain Rick Ziebarth, ABX Air pilot and executive council chairman for ABX Air pilots of Teamsters Local 1224 says that the airline’s pilot seniority list is not growing and that without a new contract, many experienced pilots leaving.

He says: “The expansion of ABX Air’s partnerships especially with a company like Amazon and its growing internal logistics network is welcomed by our pilots but executives at our carrier are underestimating the troubles ahead if they don’t come to the table and negotiate a fair contract.”

Pilots have been raising their concerns about operational problems exacerbated by labour contracts.

A survey says that 65% of respondents have been asked to fly on their days off in the last year. Another survey said more than 60% are preparing to leave the carriers, seeking work at competitors including FedEx and UPS.

65% said they have little faith that their carrier has enough pilots to meet long-term needs of Amazon Air’s programme.