Dallas-based Southwest Airlines filed a lawsuit in federal court Thursday, alleging its mechanics union — the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association — is illegally slowing down work to improve "position in ongoing labor negotiations."
According to the complaint, the union has encouraged mechanics to target write-ups "having no effect on the safety of flight."
Union representatives didn't comment immediately. They have said that supervisors at Southwest pressure mechanics to approve planes for flight, which they say is a safety hazard.
In a statement to KERA News, Southwest Airlines' Vice President of Labor Relations Russell McCrady said, "this action does not alter our goal of reaching an agreement that benefits our hardworking Maintenance Employees nor does it change the company's unwavering commitment to safety."
"Southwest is — hands down — one of the best companies in the world to work for and we will not stray from our focus on rewarding our mechanics, while we work to shield our employees and customers from unnecessary disruptions within the operation," he added.
Southwest said in the lawsuit that it normally has 14 planes out of service on an average day, but the number has spiked as high as 62 in recent days.
The airline said the rising rate of mechanical issues began after a recent bargaining session between the company and the union. A federal mediator is trying to bring the sides together.
Federal law prohibits airline employees from striking or being locked out unless a federal mediation board declares an impasse in negotiations, which has not happened in this dispute.