Airline workers are turning up the pressure against management as air travel kicks into full swing ahead of the holiday season.
Nearly 100 off-duty flight dispatchers for Southwest Airlines spent Monday morning picketing outside of Dallas Love Field Airport. The dispatchers intended the event to send a message to management that the working conditions they have experienced over the past few years were unacceptable.
Contract negotiations between Dallas-based Southwest and TWU Local 550, the union representing the airline’s flight dispatchers, have persisted for much of the year, with little progress allegedly made toward reaching a deal.
Dispatchers for Southwest Airlines are seeking an update to their contract terms, having last been awarded a new contract in 2019, prior to the industry shake-up caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent boom in travel demand.
“The problem is killing our morale,” said Jeff Jackson, vice president of TWU Local 550. “Southwest claims it is all about culture, but these long, drawn-out negotiations depict the opposite. It’s killing the culture,” he added.
Kevin Thurston, a member of TWU Local 550, believes flight dispatchers are just as crucial to the industry’s success as other key airline staff, such as pilots.
“We’re just as involved in the airline operations. We design every flight plan for every Southwest Airlines flight. Share joint operational control with every pilot in command of every Southwest Airlines flight,” Thurston said.
Dispatchers are not the only group of airline industry workers to have made public demonstrations recently. Earlier this fall, Southwest Airlines and American Airlines flight attendants also participated in pickets over contract disputes.
“I think both sides have an interest in keeping this conversation alive in the public square, making consumers aware that these negotiations are happening,” said Gabe Saglie, senior editor of Travelzoo. “These employees are trying to keep their employers accountable for issues that they find obviously important.”
In response to Monday’s picket, Southwest Airlines released a statement expressing commitment towards its employees and reaching a conclusive deal.
“Southwest Airlines respects the rights of its employees to express their opinions. We are committed to reaching a new agreement in the near term that enhances the lives of our Dispatchers,” said Adam Carlisle, Southwest VP of Labor Relations, in a statement to FOX 4.
TWU Local 550 says several options are on the table if management and union members reach an impasse, including mediation or the involvement of the federal government.