Pilots union sues Southwest Airlines.

A union representing Southwest Airlines 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 the carrier implemented an “emergency time off” program, altered schedules, and scaled back prescription drug and retirement benefits without bargaining, in violation of federal labor law, Reuters reported.

See also: Southwest Airlines cuts flights to fix operational challenges.

It claims Southwest should have collectively bargained with the union instead of giving itself “force majeure” rights when air travel plummeted during the pandemic.

The lawsuit marks an escalation in mounting tensions between the airline and its staff. Its pilots union has threatened to picket over the winter holidays to protest against a host of issues including a gruelling work schedule, a lack of food and accommodation and COVID-19 protocols.

The protest prompted the company last week to trim flight schedules for this fall in a bid to better align its operations with staffing.

In the lawsuit, the union said the airline is bound by the terms of the collective bargaining agreement that lapsed in August last year, but remains in effect until a new agreement is reached and does not contain a “force majeure” clause.

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