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Pinnacle Airlines pays flight crews erratically

Unionized pilots and flight attendants at Pinnacle Airlines, who in some cases are not getting paid on time and who face a company demand for a 5 percent pay cut, picketed the headquarters of the bankrupt regional airline in Memphis, Tenn., on Wednesday.

About 50 members of the Air Line Pilots Association took to the streets in the wake of continuing reports that pilots and other Pinnacle workers are being shorted on their paychecks. Pinnacle owns Colgan Air, operator of Continental Connection Flight 3407, which crashed in Clarence in February 2009, claiming 50 lives.

Capt. Tom Wychor, the top pilot union official at Pinnacle, said pilots were enraged both at the payroll problems and the cash-strapped airline's demand for wage concessions. While demanding pilot pay cuts, the company granted its top two executives six-figure raises less than two weeks before the company filed for bankruptcy earlier this month.

"It's unconscionable that the company is seeking the pilots' aid in a liquidity crisis and then is not paying them on time," Wychor said. Pilots at Pinnacle "are incensed," he added.

Wychor said the company and union met after The Buffalo News reported on the payroll problems last week, but that the problems remain unresolved.

"There are pilots who have been shorted most of their pay," said Scott Davidson, another pilot and union official at Pinnacle.

One pilot, for example, got a paycheck for 17 cents, Davidson said.

The union officials said Pinnacle eventually works to correct the payroll problems, but not until after pilots have gone without full pay for weeks.

In a statement, Pinnacle said it now has 70 unresolved payroll cases among the nearly 3,000 pilots it employs.

The company blamed the payroll problems on the installation of a new software system and on difficulties integrating the payroll systems of its Colgan and Mesaba Airlines operations into the Pinnacle system.

"We are taking the situation very seriously and are working quickly to correct errors and improve our processes," Pinnacle said.