As part of an effort to publicize an escalating labor dispute over aircraft maintenance subcontracting, union representatives are directly contacting customers of NetJets.
In a statement released this week, Teamsters Airline Division and Local 284 announced that they have sent union letters to NetJets aircraft owners in the finance, retail, manufacturing and higher education sectors of the economy.
The International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Teamsters Airline Division and Local 284 represent mechanics, maintenance control, aircraft fuelers, aircraft cleaners and stock clerks.
Columbus-based NetJets is the world’s largest private aviation company and deals in timeshare-like, fractional jet ownership. It is owned by Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway.
“We believe maintenance subcontracting should be reined in for the good of everyone,” said Mark Vandak, president of Local 284. “The union isn’t trying to stop all subcontracting, but we are trying to contain it by increasing the number of NetJets employees who do the work compared to vendors. So far, management is only offering us crumbs, and that won’t cut it.”
The letters sent to NetJets owners outline complaints by the union over wages that they claim are significantly below that of major airlines and a stretched-thin workforce.
“We are searching for ways to compromise with an obstinate management but we categorically reject the idea that we must compete against lower cost vendors for maintenance work,” the letters state. “We are already compensated below that of our peers at major airlines. In our opinion, a race to the bottom doesn’t serve anyone’s best interests in aviation.”
According to Chris Moore, chairman of the Aviation Mechanics Coalition, NetJets employs 111 mechanics to work on its fleet of approximately 400 aircraft.
“Compare that to a major airline that employs over 7,000 mechanics to service its fleet of approximately 700 aircraft,” Moore said in a statement. “To make the subcontracting problem worse, mechanics and support employees at NetJets haven’t received a wage increase in more than five years.”
NetJets has called the Teamsters charges “misleading rhetoric” that is intended to advance the group’s agenda and the company told Aviation International News that the union’s tactics do little to help the parties reach an agreement, instead, “they spread confusion and outright misinformation.”
Captain David Bourne, director of the Teamsters Airline Division, said that the union’s proposals could bring the labor dispute to a “successful conclusion for everyone.”
“The customers pay for a premium service,” Bourne said. “Making sure that NetJets mechanics and support workers are used to perform critical aircraft maintenance on its jets and that the workforce receives an industry-leading wage is consistent with the high level of service customers expect.”
The union made a similar protest last year when the company contemplated phasing out maintenance operations at several hubs, including Cincinnati, and faced criticism over moves to automate certain parts of the business.
Back then, a Teamsters Airline Division representative said that the “NetJets brand is becoming synonymous with labor problems.”
The union now says that it wants to schedule meetings with customers and other members of the public in order to “provide additional information and answer questions about the labor dispute.”
The union plans to send more letters and call NetJets customers.