Image
© Getty
United: Over 700 hundred Continental and United pilots, joined by additional pilots from other Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) carriers, demonstrate on Wall Street on Tuesday
Wall Street saw yet another surge in protesters today - as hundreds of Continental and United Airlines pilots demonstrated in New York City's financial district.

Over 700 hundred activists, represented by the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) carriers, took their grievances to the streets as they protested for wages and benefits in light of a stalled merger between the airlines.

The demonstration coincided with the 11th straight day the Occupy Wall Street encampment, which has seen thousands of demonstrators descend onto downtown Manhattan - and hundreds arrested.

Continental's ALPA unit announced the union rally, saying the company needed to 'get serious' about negotiating a joint contract.

United officials have said they want a fair contract and have been meeting with pilots from both unions since August 2010, arguing that none of the major sections dealing with work rules, pay, scope/job protection or retirement/benefits has been resolved.

Management wanted a deal in place by the end of 2011, but said over the summer the target would be missed. No new date has been set.

Without a joint contract that merges seniority and duties, the carrier cannot achieve the full measure of cost and revenue benefits forecast as part of the merger.

The announcement came after pilots at United Airlines asked a federal judge on Monday to halt integration with Continental Airlines, saying the company is moving too fast in its bid to merge operations fully.
Image
© Getty Images
Mismanagement: the system always breaks down when psychopaths are in charge

The United chapter of the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), which filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, sought a stay of Friday's deadline to complete the next phase of training and begin new procedures.

The union said the proposed level and timeline of training necessary for United Continental Holdings Inc (UAL.N) to earn single operating authority from Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is inadequate.

FAA clearance is the final step in the merger to create the world's biggest airline. The deal closed last year.

Pilots contend interrupting the deadline for new procedures would allow the union and management to either negotiate a resolution or arbitrate the dispute.
Image
© Getty Images
Peaceful protest: United officials have said they want a fair contract and have been meeting with pilots from both unions since August 2010

A court hearing in Brooklyn is scheduled for Wednesday.

The union said most of the training changes involve United pilots, who are adopting many of Continental's cockpit procedures.

United said the suit was without merit and was a shameful attempt to influence negotiations on a joint contract between United and Continental pilots.

United spokeswoman Julie King said in a statement: 'Our training procedures, which are fully approved and closely monitored by the FAA, meet or exceed safety standards and we are a safe airline.'

United's union chairman, Wendy Morse, said safety issues and the union contract are separate, adding: 'United management continues to squander this golden opportunity to create the world class airline it promised to the employees, to the shareholders and to the flying public nearly 17 months ago when the United/Continental merger was announced. The longer these negotiations toward a joint collective bargaining agreement drag on, the less likely the company will be able to enjoy the benefits this merger offers.
Image
© Getty Images
Uniform: Continental's ALPA unit announced the union rally, saying the company needed to 'get serious' about negotiating a joint contract

'The company has wallowed in the weeds long enough. It's time for management to stop focusing on the minutia and turn its attention toward the issues that really matter to the pilots of United and get this contract completed. The days of our pilots laboring under a bankruptcy contract have to end,' she said.

Captain Jay Pierce, chairman of the Continental pilots union, stated: 'Management may be attempting to portray success with the progress of the merger, but the reality is that it takes more than painting airplanes, hanging new airport signs and revamping a frequent-flier program. We are ready to begin the real work of creating the world's largest and best airline, and that starts with reaching agreement on a pilot contract. Real progress with implementing the merger requires the involvement of pilots and an acknowledgement by management of the contributions that pilots make in creating a successful airline.'

ALPA represents over 53,000 pilots at 39 airlines in the United States and Canada, including approximately 5000 at Continental and nearly 6,000 at United.