Rich Delaney, June 29, 2013: Download
Negotiations: United Airlines
Members of the District 141 United Airlines Negotiating Team returned to the bargaining table this week. As directed by the National Mediation Board, both sides met and outlined the critical areas of our contracts that need to be reexamined and amended. The IAM’s main goals have remained the same throughout all negotiations sessions and were again stated to the company – improved job security for all members, affordable health insurance for all members, and improved compensation for all members. Other areas of concern of our membership will also be brought to the table but these issues must be successfully addressed if there is any hope of reaching a future tentative agreement. The specific issue of perceived limited job protection for some members and stations within the previous tentative agreement was the main point of discussion. The Union emphasized that the company’s previous insistence on establishing a known date for protection in Tier 2 stations was one of the major reasons our members identified for rejecting the T/A. This issue is going to continue to be contentious throughout this next round of talks but must be resolved in the members’ favor. Other components of job security were also discussed, in recognition of the company’s recent decisions to downsize some stations and force members to decide between working part time hours or moving to other cities. The company made it clear that they will continue to make decisions that they believe benefit the airline without violating any current contracts. The company’s position was reinforced, outside of negotiations, by a recently published interview of CEO Smisek in which he announced United’s intent to actively look at contracting out work across the system and in all classifications (to read the interview click here). Our Negotiating Team emphasized the need to agree on a meaningful Early Out Program as part of an overall job security package. Both sides agreed that the program included in the previous T/A needed more definition and communication in order for members to trust it. While the company would not commit at this time to maintaining the originally proposed Early Out Program they have agreed that more detailed discussion must take place.
Health insurance was also addressed by the IAM. Throughout the last ratification explanation process it was made crystal clear by our members that increasing costs of individual and family coverage was so important it was a reason to reject the T/A. We told the company our intent in this round of negotiations was to find a more fair insurance program that provided quality coverage at reasonable costs for our entire membership. The company responded by saying they were in the process of calculating and establishing next year’s insurance costs based on the current rules and contractual requirements in preparation of the open enrollment period later this year.
Areas of compensation, including base rates, premiums, and overrides, were identified by the IAM as areas of necessary improvement. This also included a detailed discussion of the payment of retroactive wages for all represented groups. The previous arguments we had regarding the company refusal to refer to the payment as retroactive wages were cited as another major contributor to the rejection of the T/A in March. While the company agreed that the calculations for the payment were based on compensated hours of each individual member, they repeated their opposition to referring to it as retroactive pay.
Tomorrow, June 30th, our s-CO members will begin earning a higher rate of pay as the final wage increase of the current Fleet Service agreement is implemented. The top of scale base rate for Fleet Service will be $22.85. This also marks the second year that s-CO Public Contact employees will not receive a classification-wide wage increase. It is this type of time frame of delayed compensation that the IAM accounts for through retroactive payments.
We will return to negotiations in 3 weeks, as directed by the NMB, and expect to receive a more detailed response from the company on these critical issues.
This past week District 141 received a copy of an informal list of members’ concerns and ideas about their contracts, in advance of the start of the formal surveying. Most suggestions reinforced the Negotiating Teams positions in the subject areas of wage improvement, job protection, and health insurance. Other subjects, such as – Sick Time, Retiree benefits, Pensions (including 401(k) company contributions), Seniority protection against loss of seniority, Union representation and Grievance Procedure, and more general topics – were more difficult to decipher. In some comments it appears members are making sure that the cited provisions again be included in any future T/A and in other comments on the same subject it appears members are not aware that their concerns were included in the previous T/A’s. All the comments were welcomed and will be used to develop communications and explanations as we proceed through this current negotiations period.