Rich Delaney, 06 September 2013: Download
United Airlines Negotiations
Negotiations between District 141 and United Airlines continued this week. Unfortunately, despite the progress we were able to make on some issues, a full and complete tentative agreement was not attainable. The issues that our members have said are the most important to them are proving to be the most difficult to resolve with the company. The goal of wage improvement, secure jobs, and benefits that truly are beneficial and affordable must be reached before a second agreement can be made. Your negotiating team believes that an agreement can ultimately be reached that does address members’ issues, but we are not willing to stop short of exhausting every option and argument in order to finish these negotiations on anyone else’s timetable.
We have been assisted by mediators assigned by the National Mediation Board during these discussions and are very aware of the frustration they are feeling in the time and effort it is taking to finalize negotiations. We appreciate the effort and commitment the NMB has made to our talks; especially over the past year. As you will recall, our original agreement with the NMB and United was to enter “expedited” mediation last summer with the intent of reaching a settlement by November 15, 2012. Even though the parties were not able to agree by that date, we have remained in the “expedited” environment ever since. This week the mediators informed us that dedicated involvement of the NMB has its limits.
Negotiations ended for the week with no announced schedule for returning to the table. Instead, the full NMB has directed both the IAM and United to participate in a “status conference” with the Chairman of the NMB to give the Board members an assessment of where we believe the negotiations are headed and what the significant areas of dispute are that are preventing a settlement. This meeting is scheduled for Monday, September 9th. As a result of that meeting Chair Puchala will give us the determination of the Board as to future bargaining sessions. The intent of the IAM is to give the Board an honest assessment of our position and make clear that we believe additional bargaining meetings, coordinated by the NMB, will get us to the finish line. As we have told the company and the NMB at every stage of talks, we are willing and prepared to meet at any time the mediators determine and will continue to use our best efforts to reach an agreement that is acceptable to our members.
Although we were not able to finalize all the details of an agreement, we were able to make significant progress on some issues of immediate concern to our members; specifically the provisions of the enhanced Early Out program. In previous meetings with the company we had reached a commitment for the program and have agreed to extend the sign up period until September 16th. This was done with the hope that we would have a completed agreement available for review by members and allow them to make informed decisions about participating in the program. In response to many questions and concerns of members needing more information regarding the program we have agreed to several key components. The concern of many that by signing up for the Early Out they may be removing themselves from potential benefits a new contract may provide was discussed. Our agreement this week provides that any member opting for the Early Out program, regardless of the final date of work, will be eligible for any special payment a new ratified agreement may contain including retroactive pay, signing bonus, or any other one time payment that may be negotiated. In addition, we have agreed that every participant will be entitled to the best option for health insurance available to them. This means that each member will be eligible for the current retiree health insurance plans outlined for their classification and legacy carrier and also have the option of enrolling in any eligible insurance plan that is included in a new agreement, if it benefits them. In other words, the Early Out option will not have a negative effect on a member that volunteers for it. We believe this critical agreement needed to be made now so that interested members can make decisions since the extension of the sign up period could not be agreed to. The sign up period remains open until September 16th at which time the company will determine the participation level and activate the waiver period.
We are hopeful that the NMB recognizes the progress we have made in the most recent discussions and allows both sides to use their best efforts to resolve the outstanding issues and reach an agreement without undue delay. Any direction the Board gives us will be promptly communicated.
Rich Delaney, 06 September 2013: Download