I think it is pretty ridiculous. Not only are they non-union (lack of protection), they can be terminated (well, "not-renewed", same thing) at the 5-year mark if the company decides they aren't "fitting-in" or pulling their weight. Who makes THAT decision?
Sounds like Delta's new Song operation. The flight attendants there are on a 'contract' also. Apparantly to make the transfer to Song, you don't have an interview, you have an 'audition'. After 5 years if the powers-that-be decide they don't like you, out you go with no recourse. I suppose that's how things are the 'real' world, having to kiss a@s to keep your job, but that was one thing I like about working under a negotiated labor agreement. You knew exactly what the person sitting next to you was making, there's no underhanded measures to get raises, no competition for money. With everything based on a senority list you know exactly where you stand, and with a contract you know what to expect and should a party to that contract violate it, there's legal action that can be taken!
Of course some airlines (DL) feel they can violate certain provisions of their contracts (no furlough clauses) and tell the parties affected (approximately 1400 pilots & their families) to 'grieve it' knowing that even an expedited grievance procedure will take months. But I digress.....
One of the benefits of working under a contract is the ability to call-in sick without having to worry about recourse.
Some of the worst colds on earth (you know, the ones that you thought you'd be better off dead) were ones that I caught from pilots and flight attendants that were flying ill to avoid having to call in sick.
Now if a crewmember is ill and doens't want to get a nasty 'tick' on his/her employee file that'll be under circumspection every five years, that'd just going to put everyone else in a precarious situation.
Or even if you've got to refuse a jet that is airworthy, but not legal to fly, what's a boy to do?
I'm not sure there are any five year guys at Jetblue yet that have tested the waters. One thing is for sure, if they start letting more than a handful a year go, there will be a union on that property quick. Nothing could make those guys stop drinking the Kool Aid faster than even just one incident of a pilot's contract not being renewed for unfair reasons. I think management would be nuts to ruin the status quo by not renewing those contracts.
See guys...weird little things like a renewable five year contract is why airline pilots have unions...
Doug's point on guys not calling in sick, lest they ruin their reputation as a worker bee, is a good one.
I know that at DL they dog us for calling in sick. I work the ramp so we get all kinds of weather and usually if one gets sick it gets passed around. With the new benefits package they have cut our sick days to a max of 135 total days for you whole career. If you use any during the year they will only renew 5 days for the next year. You have to hope you dont get really sick. They break it down into non-certified and certified. When I approached my boss about it and said you know if we all get sick from passing it around what will they do. He said just come in if you are sick because that doesnt happen. Dang if you do and dang if you dont. When management gets bored they start nicpicking everything on the airport.