Berkshire's NetJets Reaches Agreement in Principle With Pilots

  • Union says parties to work to finalize negotiated language
  • NetJets cites collaboration, especially in recent months

NetJets, the luxury aviation unit at Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc., has reached an agreement in principle to settle a labor dispute with a union representing more than 2,700 pilots.

“Throughout the next several days, the parties will work to finalize the negotiated language that will form the tentative agreement,” the NetJets Association of Shared Aircraft Pilots said in a statement Thursday.

A final accord would end one of the most visible labor disputes at Buffett’s company in years. NJASAP and unions representing other employees at the Columbus, Ohio-based business have complained in recent years that they weren’t rewarded for NetJets’ rebound after the financial crisis.

NetJets announced in June that it had lured back former President Adam Johnson and named him chief executive officer to replace Jordan Hansell, a shift welcomed by the pilots. The company reported the agreement in principle in a statement on its website.

Negotiators “worked diligently and collaboratively, especially throughout the last few months,” according to the statement.

Court Clash

The pilots had sought to pressure the company by taking out newspaper ads and protesting at Berkshire’s annual meeting in Omaha, Nebraska. NJASAP also filed a lawsuit against NetJets in December, saying that the company gained access to the pilots’ private message board and snooped on their communications.

NetJets has said in court filings that the message board was accessible to the public and that the lawsuit was an attempt to gain an advantage during the negotiations.

The business has given Buffett, 85, periodic headaches since he bought it for $725 million in 1998. NetJets is on its third CEO since founder Richard Santulli left in 2009 as the recession caused its customers to scale back on travel. The business, Buffett later said, “was destined for bankruptcy, absent Berkshire’s deep pockets.”

Founded in 1964, NetJets operates hundreds of aircraft. It was a pioneer in fractional aircraft ownership.

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