Rich Delaney, February 3, 2013 Download—It is Groundhog Day as I write this message and, like the movie, it feels like I am repeating the same day over and over. Especially in regards to negotiations with United Airlines. In this past week we have continued to meet and discuss the issues that are keeping us from reaching a full contractual agreement with the company and it seems that the issues and the positions of both sides are close to same every day.
In the past week we have tried to narrow the differences between the company and the Union on the key issues of wages, benefits, and job security. Both sides are seeing the difficulty in modifying their positions on any of these subjects and so movement towards resolving them is slow and emotional. However, we have seen small progressive steps taken in the last week on some of these economic issues, along with progress being made on how changes in current work processes will be addressed. Both sides recognize that reaching agreement on the use of seniority, for example, or how overtime will be awarded is only the start of the issue, understanding and agreeing how procedures will be implemented is also a necessary part of our contracts. Those issues are almost complete and have allowed the main focus of talks to be on the economic topics that are still outstanding. We are at a point in these negotiations in which both parties are presenting comprehensive proposals intended to address all outstanding issues to each other. At some point in time, hopefully soon, the company will accept the union’s proposal for settlement and we will be able to tentatively agree on a contract and bring it to our members for a vote.
Next week federal mediators will rejoin our negotiations to try to assist us in finalizing an agreement. Senior Mediator Patricia Sims, along with mediators Michael Kelliher and Andy Nordgren, will meet with both sides on Tuesday to review the progress that has been made since they were last with us and to give us direction on how to proceed. We are hopeful that with the reduced amount of unresolved issues, since the last mediated sessions, and their experience and skill at getting parties to find acceptable solutions to difficult issues, that this session of negotiations may lead us to an agreement. If it does not, then we will rely on the NMB to direct us to our next steps, following the law and the NMB policies.
While it sometimes feels that the world has stopped, waiting for the completion of negotiations, unfortunately that is not true. Company decisions are still being made that impact our membership. The company informed our members in Guam, former Continental Micronesia employees, that they would no longer work as the vendor for ground handling of Japan Airlines in Guam. This is a significant amount of work that has been historically been done by CMI employees. JAL has chosen to award the vendor contract to another service company. The IAM began discussions with United immediately after learning of this decision by JAL to explore options for our members in Guam. We will continue to look for ways to maintain employment for effected members as we continue to negotiate over the issue of job security and the impact of contract work. The company has informed our Guam members that the effective date of the loss of the JAL contract is April 1, 2013.