Rich Delaney, February 24, 2013—This past week we conducted informational meetings for all station representatives from all groups and previous airlines to present the details of our recently announced tentative agreement with United Airlines. The meetings were conducted over two days in Chicago and allowed each specific group – s-UA PCE, s-CO Fleetservice, s-UA RSM, and s-CO PCE to receive the same information but evaluate and question how this agreement effects their classifications. In addition, members from Guam, who previously worked for Continental Micronesia Airlines attended and learned how they are becoming part of the entire membership.
The focus of the meetings was on the key areas of employment security, economics and benefits, and work rules. Each attendee receive a copy of the first draft of the contract, with the understanding that final proofreading and corrections will be made to the document prior to mailing copies of the agreement to each member’s home prior to ratification voting.
The employment security provisions became the main topic of discussion as the new construction of the agreement generated a lot of concerns and questions over whether this agreement actually provides, or takes away, protection for our membership. It was necessary to establish the baseline protections that cover our members currently before addressing the changes this agreement causes. The station representatives were reminded that currently, without taking into account any proposed changes, the actual percentage of our total membership that has any identified security is approximately 27%. There is some station and work protection for s-UA RSM and a protection against involuntary furlough for any s-UA member that has a seniority date of January 26, 1994 or greater. Other than that, there is no protection for junior s-UA members, no protection of any kind for any s-CO member, and no protection for s-CMI members. That reality is what made employment security such a critical issue during these negotiations. The information provided showed that as a result of these negotiations over 90% of our total membership will now have specific guarantees and options they may choose to remain employed with United Airlines in the future. Some protections are aimed at the work we do and others are targeted to the members that may be impacted by company decisions. The combination of the voluntary early out program, the protection of current station work and seniority options, and the contractual commitment to insource work currently being vendored in key stations was described in order to get a complete picture of what this tentative agreement actually does to create a more stable environment for members.
The economic components of this agreement were detailed and discussed. The proper calculation of retroactive pay increases was outlined and its application to each membership group was explained. The concept of negotiated wage increases over a contract that rightfully should have been completed in 2010 was explained and examples given. The equal distribution of back earnings, based on actual hours worked, for all members, not solely s-UA was explained to the Committee members and Stewards in attendance. In addition, changes and improvements in holiday pay, vacation accrual, overtime rates, and premium payments for certain skilled positions was reviewed.
The issue of most concern was the future of health care costs and its impact on members. By agreeing to place all employees on a single insurance program it was necessary to explain some of the differences between current healthcare options and future options. The main concern was that although future options will allow individuals to structure their insurance in a way that works best for them and their families, there should be consideration of the impact of moving to that type of system from what is currently available to members, especially s-UA members, and allowing a gradual move to a new program. The provisions of the tentative agreement that require the company to maintain the HMO option and subsidize any cost increases that may be incurred by s-UA members as a result of moving to the single insurance program over the next two years were explained and discussed. The Committee representatives were very clear in their position that this area of the tentative agreement needed more explanation and examples of how it will work in order to fully explain it to their members in their stations. As a result of their feedback that type of information is being put together and will be made available on our website prior to ratification voting. The improvements to the insurance programs covering current s-CO members were also explained so that all members could see how this agreement affects them.
Work rule changes that provide protection for full time work while also allowing for more flexibility in scheduling and trading were discussed as were the strengthening of seniority rights.
The remaining issue of most concern to the station representatives was seniority integration. The committed process of submitting the issues of integration to an arbitrator for final determination was explained and the timeframe for completing this process was outlined.
Now that our local representatives have been briefed on the new tentative agreement, plans are being finalized to present informational meetings in stations across the system for our entire membership. In addition to posting information on our website, as it becomes available, specific meetings will be conducted by District 141 Officers and members of the Negotiating Team. These meetings are planned to begin as early as next week and a full schedule will be posted online. We encourage all members to take the time to attend one of these meetings to hear the details and explanations of your tentative agreement for yourself from the people that worked on your behalf to reach this agreement.
Voting for the ratification or rejection of this agreement will be conducted by mail. The ballots are scheduled to be mailed to each member’s last known address beginning March 11th. The counting of all votes cast will begin on March 22nd. In addition to the acceptance/rejection ballot a vote will be taken to authorize a strike by the IAM members as a result of the outcome of the vote. As was explained in the meetings this past week it is the policy of the IAM to conduct a strike vote any time there is a contract ratification vote.