Airline labor relations are fascinating, though I usually don’t chime in on them. That’s simply because I’m not an expert on them, and I also tend to think the truth lies somewhere in the middle, as with most things in life.
That being said, in early November I wrote about American’s flight attendants rejecting their new contract. They were the first work group to undergo negotiations for a new joint contract between legacy American and US Airways, so the situation set an interesting precedent. Out of over 8,000 votes, the contract got turned down over just 16 votes, which is crazy.
What also made this vote seem so straightforward is that the proposed contract was worth $193 million in yearly increases, while if the contract went to arbitration it would be capped at $112 million in yearly increases, which even the union acknowledged. I get the contract didn’t include everything flight attendants wanted, but in this case it seemed pretty black and white in terms of the money at stake.
Now, I had a couple of flight attendants email me and explain the “other side.” And they made some valid points. So I’m not at all trying to suggest that the flight attendants were necessarily in the wrong for voting against it.
That being said, the contract has gone through lightning-fast arbitration, despite them allowing nearly a month for the process. In less than two days the new contract was decided on. Via The Dallas Morning News:
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.
“In both cases the Panel found that the inclusion of these provisions would push the added value of the JCBA beyond the market-based aggregate of $112 million,” the union said in a hotline message to members Saturday evening.
“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.
So the new contract is now in place, and the provisions go into effect January 1, 2015. Best I can tell, arbitration ended exactly as expected. The flight attendants got an added value of $112 million, as opposed to the $193 million that was in the original contract.
It’s interesting to see flight attendants’ responses to the situation, both on the union side and the opposition side. Via The Street:
Twenty-nine-year flight attendant Trice Johnson, a leader of the opposition to the tentative agreement and a candidate for Miami base president in upcoming APFA elections, said two days was too short.
“The majority of the flight attendant membership that rejected the TA viewed the less-than-two-days hurried arbitration testimony as reckless and punitive by a union leadership miffed by the fact that they could not sell a flawed tentative agreement to its members,” Johnson said.
American flight attendants have “steadily and voluntarily given back concession after concession for more than a decade,” he said, adding, “The union could have spent the members’ time more wisely by utilizing an appropriate time line (30 full days of testimony) to present a thoughtful and accurate case to the arbitrators.”
A union spokesman responded: “The arbitration parameters were very clear. APFA proved to the company and the arbitrators what a market contract is worth. We then explained how we wanted that value. The contentious issues were the ‘me-toos’ which we debated thoroughly.”
On the plus side, it’s still a pay raise, though not as much so as the flight attendants had hoped.
It seems that the arbitration did play out in just as straightforward of a manner as was promised and expected.
To any flight attendants reading that voted against the contract, is there a silver lining here, or are you not happy?