Feb 14 (Reuters) - Republic Airways Holdings Inc said on Friday that it reached a tentative accord for a four-year labor contract with the Teamsters union, which represents more than 2,200 pilots at its Republic, Chautauqua and Shuttle America regional airline subsidiaries.
The agreement, which is subject to approval by union members, comes after nearly seven years of talks and includes pay raises, improved work rules and a signing bonus, Republic said in a statement. A vote by the union membership is expected in March, it said.
Republic's statement said the pay increases "will place Republic at or near the top of its airline peers."
Dan Silbaugh, recording secretary with Teamsters Local 357, which represents Republic pilots, declined to discuss pay and other details of the tentative agreement, saying it had not been presented to union members. Republic spokesman Peter Kowalchuk also said the company would not disclose contents of the accord until the union has shared it with members.
Indianapolis-based Republic said this week that its pretax income would be reduced this year because it decided to cut its planned flying due to a scarcity of qualified pilots.
The company's chief executive officer, Bryan Bedford, told Reuters in an interview this week that the company had seen a drop in the number of qualified applicants since U.S. Federal Aviation Administration rules took effect last year that increased flight-time requirements for pilots of commercial jets and cargo planes.
In a letter to staff, Bedford had also addressed the possibility that not having a new collective bargaining agreement with pilots could be hurting the company's recruitment efforts.
Silbaugh said a starting first officer at Republic could earn a range of $17,000 to $24,000 a year, based on current pay scales.
Republic and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 357 began contract talks in 2007. Negotiations with a federal mediator ran from June 2011 to October 2012, and talks between the parties resumed in November 2012 with a private mediator, Kowalchuk said.
Shares of Republic Airways were up 11 cents, or 1.25 percent, to $8.93 in afternoon trading.