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Aug 31 (Reuters) – A union representing Southwest Airlines Co (LUV.N) pilots has filed a lawsuit challenging forced time off and other changes to working conditions imposed by the airline during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Southwest Airlines Pilots Association filed a complaint in federal court in Dallas on Monday claiming that Southwest should have collectively bargained with the union instead of giving itself “force majeure” rights when air travel plummeted during the pandemic.
The union claims Southwest implemented an “emergency time off” program, altered schedules, and scaled back prescription drug and retirement benefits without bargaining, in violation of federal labor law.
It asked the court for an injunction, forcing the airline to stick to the terms of the collective bargaining agreement, which lapsed on Aug. 31, 2020, until a new agreement is reached.
In an email sent to its members on Tuesday, the union said the lawsuit was the “only recourse” to compel the company to meet its duty to collectively bargain.
Russell McCrady, Southwest vice president of labor relations, in a statement said that the airline disagrees that any COVID-related changes adopted in recent months required negotiation.
“As always, Southwest remains committed to pilots’ health and welfare and to working with SWAPA, and our other union partners, as we continue navigating the challenges presented by the ongoing pandemic,” he said.
Reporting by Daniel Wiessner in New York and Rajesh Kumar Singh in Chicago; Editing by Bill Berkrot, Richard Chang and Mark Porter