This is the seventh installment in a series of posts designed to explain the structure and function of your union. Knowing how your union works and who to contact when you have questions or issues you want addressed will help you make the most of your career. Today we’re looking at the differences between the PWA and the FOM.

The Pilot Working Agreement (PWA)

The Pilot Working Agreement (aka “the Contract”) is the result of negotiations between the Company and ALPA on behalf of Delta pilots. ALPA, as our designated bargaining agent, meets with the Company in accordance with the Railway Labor Act to negotiate the Contract. The Contract covers essential issues such as pay, work rules, scope, benefits and seniority, among others. Our agreement is in effect until amended – our current agreement is amendable at the end of 2019.

The Flight Operations Manual (FOM)

We’ll take the definition of this document straight from the FOM itself: “The Flight Operations Manual (FOM) provides policies, practices, instructions and guidance necessary for Flight Operations personnel to perform their duties with the highest degree of safety and efficiency .” The FOM is amended under the authority of the Vice President of Flight Ops and is usually revised every two months.

So… PWA vs. FOM – “The Conditions Under Which We Work vs. How We Do Our Job”

The PWA directs the conditions under which we work, such as pay rates, overnight hotel requirements and much more. The FOM, on the other hand, essentially directs the way we must do our jobs and conduct ourselves in situations which relate to the Company or might reflect on the Company.

When the PWA Isn’t Followed

When the Company operates outside of compliance with the contract, arbitral case law has established the remedies available in such instances with the focus on making the pilot (or pilot group) whole. For example, Pilot A should have been assigned a green slip, but the flying was instead assigned to Pilot B. For a relatively simple event such as this, Pilot A can contact the MEC Scheduling Committee, and provide the relevant information usually resulting in Pilot A getting paid for the missed trip, thereby making him whole. The Company, ALPA and the pilot get a speedy solution while not burdening limited (and costly) resources in the grievance process.

Of course, there are times when the issue is more complicated and/or the entire pilot group is impacted. For example, when the required balance of JV flying with Air France was not in compliance, a solution was determined via the grievance process. Sections 18 and 19 of the PWA describes the grievance process and the System Board of Adjustment, which is a four- or five-member panel that hears a grievance and decides its outcome. The process can take months or years, but some issues are worth the time and effort.

What if PWA Non-Compliance Happens to Me?

Ever suspect you have been assigned to do something that wasn’t compliant with the PWA? The PWA is complicated and can be confusing, so never be afraid to ask for clarification. On that note, however, as long as the assignment is FAR legal and you are physically fit for duty, you may be expected to “fly now, grieve later.” Document the incident as best you can, do a professional job for your passengers, then call your ALPA volunteers to help make sure that if there was a mistake, you are made whole.

Be sure to catch up on all parts of the Understanding Your Union series:

The Organization of ALPA

Local Councils/LECs

The Master Executive Council

Officers of the MEC

Governing Documents

MEC Meetings

Your Dues

Policy Manual Review

MEC Committees