US judge orders striking ABX Air pilots back to work, DHL expects delays in shipments to Americas

Cargo jets sit parked on the tarmac during the overnight sort at the DHL Worldwide Express hub of Cincinnati.
Cargo jets sit parked on the tarmac during the overnight sort at the DHL Worldwide Express hub of Cincinnati.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

CHICAGO (REUTERS) - A US federal judge upheld a temporary restraining order sought by cargo airline ABX Air, whose major customers include DHL and online retail giant Amazon, against its striking pilots and ordered them back to work immediately.

ABX said in a statement that it expects flight operations to resume immediately.

DHL had earlier warned of delays to inbound and outbound shipments to portions of the Americas through Thursday (Nov 24) as a result of the stoppage. Amazon, which has contracts with other carriers, including United Parcel Service Inc and FedEx Corp, said it had sufficient alternatives to avoid service disruptions because of the strike.

The pilots, represented by the Teamsters union, walked off the job early Tuesday over what they said were violations of the collective bargaining agreement with the unit of Air Transport Services Group Inc.

The union said that due to a pilot shortage, ABX Air had asked them to work emergency hours over the last two years, but failed to grant them compensatory time off or allow pilots to take earned vacations as per their contract.

The work stoppage came at a critical time for the likes of Amazon and Deutsche Post AG unit DHL, in the run-up to the US holidays.

Judge Timothy Black of the US court for the Southern District of Ohio said there was "no evidence" to support claims by the Teamsters who represent ABX's pilots that the airline had violated the terms of its collective bargaining agreement with the union.

Judge Black ruled in granting a temporary restraining order that this was a "minor dispute" and was thus subject to arbitration rather than a matter for a federal court.