The merger between US Airways and American Airlines offers incredible opportunity for Flight Attendants. The many benefits include improved flying opportunities, security from being part of the world’s largest carrier, and the new company’s strengthened economic position. These are all causes to be excited about the merger.
Yet, as in any merger we must be vigilant to protect our interests as we know from experience we cannot trust our management team to do so. For that reason, ever since the merger was announced your AFA US Airways leadership has worked diligently to protect our interests in several key areas: seniority, representation and bargaining.
On the seniority front, we are hopeful that AFA and APFA will work out an agreement to the benefit of flight attendants. The parties have agreed in concept of how to integrate seniority and are in the process of finalizing the details.
Another component of our discussions with APFA centers on how to bring our two unions together. AFA is proposing a true merger of the two unions; one which respects our respective cultures and histories. Concretely, we are proposing that we open up our constitutions and create a new organization which is truly a mixture of both unions. This process would take place over a number of years, allowing sufficient time to blend our unions together. Flight Attendants need a process which brings us together rather than divides us.
We believe that Flight Attendants at the merged carrier deserve that our unions make every effort to reach a consensual agreement and avoid a representation election. And we remain committed to doing so.
The Best of Both Contracts
The final piece of our discussions with APFA center on AFA’s insistence that we negotiate an alternative to the bankruptcy-driven APFA-US Airways Conditional Labor Agreement (CLA). As you may recall from previous discussions, while American Airlines was in bankruptcy Doug Parker and US Airways management approached APFA and negotiated a labor agreement which would go into effect upon the closing of the merger. The deal reduced some of the concessions for American Flight Attendants (although it retained the big ticket concessions on retirement, staffing, and health care).
Of most concern for the discussion here, the agreement included a process to reach a single agreement with a very short 60 days of negotiations, an industry average standard, the use of the American APFA concessionary agreement as the foundation document, and binding arbitration without a Flight Attendant vote.
Any process for reaching a Flight Attendant agreement at the New American Airlines must include the opportunity to bargain an industry-leading agreement with the best of both Flight Attendant agreements. Simply put we cannot agree to a process which will result in concessions for US Airways Flight Attendants and which squanders the opportunity for all Flight Attendants at the New American to achieve an industry-leading agreement.
We do not believe that we should either use the AFA agreement or the APFA Agreement. Rather we must pull the best from both contracts. The American Airlines and US Airways contracts both have good things in them and embody the culture and history of the respective work groups. The merger should be a blending of the two cultures, not the imposition of one set of rules upon either group.
In our meetings with APFA, we are proposing an inclusive process which results in a single agreement containing the best of both contracts. We need to be clear about one thing: the process contained in the APFA-US Airways CLA does not provide for the best of both agreements. It uses the American Airlines agreement as the foundation document, contains a very short time for negotiations of changes to that agreement, applies an industry-average economic formula, and includes arbitration of the final agreement without your vote.
Even if the APFA leadership wanted to negotiate the best of both contracts, they have a legally binding agreement which does not provide for that outcome. We can see why such a result appeals to US Airways management but we cannot see how such a result benefits either US Airways or American Airlines Flight Attendants. Your US Airways contract confirms this process does not apply to US Airways Flight Attendants as long as AFA is the representative.
This means our contract and representation brings leverage for all Flight Attendants to negotiate a different process provided APFA works with us to address the hopes of Flight Attendants at the new American. Alternatively, in one stroke, US Airways management believes they can extinguish decades of contract improvements fought for by US Airways Flight Attendants. We will not let that happen.
For that reason, we have been attempting to convince the leadership of APFA to break with US Airways management and demand an alternative negotiations process. To that end, AFA proposes:
an expedited process of negotiations,
sufficient time to negotiate the best of both agreements,
using both contracts as a foundation documents which is the only way to achieve the best of both contracts, and
using an industry-leading economic formula not biased towards management.
Any other process does a disservice to both American Airlines and US Airways Flight Attendants.
A Brief Contract Comparison
Over the last number of months we have been attempting to reach an agreement with APFA. For that reason, we have minimized our communications on certain matters so as not to create friction between the parties. The clock, however, is ticking and we will be providing increasing amounts of information in the coming weeks and months.
The purpose of this brief overview is not to provide a definitive account of the differences between the two agreements. There are many good provisions in both agreements and in the coming weeks, we will do our best to provide objective information for all Flight Attendants so you can compare the language in the agreements. We believe that Flight Attendants want and deserve unbiased, objective information.
We do, however, believe it is important that Flight Attendants realize what is at stake in these discussions. This is not merely a question of which union will represent Flight Attendants at the New American but involves bargaining agreements which will impact Flight Attendants for years and decades to come.
In particular, we are concerned that US Airways management has used the bankruptcy process to get APFA to agree to a bankruptcy-driven Conditional Labor Agreement (CLA) which will mean concessions for US Airways Flight Attendants and a squandered opportunity for our counterparts at American Airlines to obtain an industry-leading agreement.
We have closely analyzed both the AFA/US Airways Agreement and the APFA-US Airways CLA. Our economic analysis clearly demonstrates that the AFA Agreement is worth millions more than the APFA CLA. The main drivers of any labor agreement are the big ticket economic areas: wages, premiums, per-diem, profit sharing, sick, vacation, health care, staffing and retirement. This directly goes to which contract provisions to use as the foundation document and calls into question the analysis utilized to settle upon an industry average formula.
Although the wage rates at the top of the pay scale are slightly higher under the APFA CLA, this is more than offset by the increased costs of the other provisions of the AFA Agreement.
Almost all other steps of the pay scale are higher under the AFA/US Airways Agreement.
The AFA/US Airways Agreement contains health care plans that cost the company tens of millions more than the American concessionary health care plans. Eliminated would be the high-quality US Airways 100% and 90% plans. Left would be an 80% plan which is far worse than the US Airways 80% plan. The best of the bankruptcy-imposed health care plans under the APFA-US Airways CLA is an 80% plan which costs flight attendants three times as much as the US Airways 80% plan yet has higher deductibles, out of pocket maximums and inferior provisions. In other words, US Airways management would achieve their long-standing goal of slashing our health care.
American Airlines Flight Attendants were required to sacrifice profit sharing when court filings indicate the merged carrier is projecting record profits. The AFA-US Airways Agreement retains our profit sharing and that item alone would vault our economic compensation far ahead of what is provided for in the APFA/US Airways CLA.
Unlike the APFA CLA, the AFA/US Airways Agreement has lead premiums on domestic narrow bodies and greatly higher lead/aft premiums on wide bodies/international flights.
AFA has a me-too with the pilot per-diem which will result in per diem increasing throughout our agreement.
Both the AFA and APFA agreements included a 3% Company contribution. In addition, the APFA-US Airways agreement includes a company match worth up to 2.5% for Flight Attendants who participate. It also includes a temporary make-up contribution applicable only to American Airlines Flight Attendants whose pension plan was frozen.
The AFA agreement includes more sick leave (54 hours versus 36), more days of vacation (tops out at 35 days vs. 28 days), and a higher vacation credit.
This simple analysis shows why we are so greatly concerned. This merger must not represent an opportunity for more concessions for Flight Attendants.
It’s not just about the money. Your contract protects your lifestyle and serves to limit the discretion of management. US Airways management desperately wants to extinguish the US Airways agreement and it’s easy to see why. The US Airways agreement contains some of the strongest work rules and most detailed contract language in the industry.
In the coming weeks and months we encourage both US Airways and American Flight Attendants to familiarize yourselves with provisions of both agreements. The perspective should not be one contract is better than the other but which parts of each should be retained to produce the best possible agreement. For example, US Airways Flight Attendants value the ability to take vacations in multiple blocks per year, rather than being forced to take vacation in one block if less than 19 days. We can see why management likes such a provision. Likewise, the APFA agreement has a nifty early-out provision that allows eligible Flight Attendants the ability to separate from the company with passes and some cash.
Time to Get Active
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