In the end, there wasn’t much noise at all. The arbitration board deciding the fate of the flight attendants sided with the airline on all 3 points, and the flight attendants all now have the same contract.
The path this has taken was a little surprising, though it likely showed us that even after the US Airways flight attendants agreed on a joint contract in 2013 after over 7 years of not being able to agree that there’s still a lot of people not on the same page. When you fold in the existing American Airlines flight attendants to a new vote, there were enough competing interests that the contract union leaders and American Airlines agreed upon was voted down by less than 1%, a total of 16 votes.
The surprising part was that the flight attendants knew if they didn’t ratify the contract, they would lose roughly $81 million in compensation. The agreements all parties reached in 2013 stated that if the flight attendants couldn’t agree on a contract that the matter would be settled in arbitration, but with only $112 million in additional compensation instead of $193 million.
Unsurprisingly, the arbitration voted against the union in all 3 matters they were contesting:
The board rejected the union’s request for “me-too” clauses that guaranteed that APFA members would get profit sharing and better health coverage if other unions secured those items in their own joint contracts. That was two items.
“A majority of the Panel also rejected APFA’s argument that the new wage rates of the JCBA be retroactive to December 2, 2014. It held that starting the pay increases prior to the effective date of the JCBA would result in its value exceeding the $112 million cap,” the union said.
To me, this is a good example of how unions are not always a positive influence in today’s workforce. This outcome isn’t necessarily the fault of union leadership. It appears that a group this large just had interests that were too diverse to achieve one set of priorities at this time.
It’s just a little painful to see, in that they could have set aside their differences and all had larger pay raises, the line item where the lost $81 million will come out of.
Predictably, the union head has already campaigned management to give flight attendants the full amount promised prior to arbitration and a small group of employees were picketing last week asking for more benefits. The process failed them to some degree and they’re likely stuck with this outcome, which hopefully won’t poison them as employees (see United Airlines).
While I disagreed with some of Doug Parker’s language as it related to the arbitration move with the flight attendants, I’m convinced that they didn’t have much of a choice here as it relates to future negotiations. By not enforcing the arbitration provision when the flight attendants voted down the contract as detailed, I think it shows the unions that they can continue to push without impunity for better contract terms. Why agree to a deal you don’t like if you don’t believe management is willing to draw a line in the sand?
I still believe the relationship between management and the unions is flawed in many ways, tainted over years of distrust and arguments between the relative parties. That doesn’t get fixed in one contract cycle.
The pilots and management are still in the middle of negotiations and both sides have shown flexibility to continue discussions there. There’s hope for a mutual resolution and it may be easier to get consensus amongst the pilots given there are less total pilots than flight attendants. But, given the deep-seated acrimony from the US Airways/America West days and the relatively lukewarm relationship between American Airlines and their pilots, coupled with the recent flight attendant vote in contrast to their leaders’ agreement, it seems like there’s still a few more acts to this show.
The post American Airlines Has One Flight Attendant Contract was published first on Pizza In Motion.
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