Rich Delaney, 09 February 2014: Download
Another paycheck has been issued and still our members have not been fully and correctly paid for work they have performed for United Airlines. That is a fact that United management downplays. They expect their employees to be grateful to receive any of the committed wage increases they agreed to last fall. Finally being paid the right amount in current pay periods was a great accomplishment, after 3 months and was of course welcomed by employees that worked hard during the busiest, coldest, most adverse weather conditions in recent memory; knowing every day they were not being paid as much as they should have been until the middle of January. The question that is asked every day now is “when do I get my money?” The answer continues to be “not now”. United Airlines cannot, or will not, give their employees, our members, any idea when they will be paid for their services from November 1, 2013. Updates to the IAM regarding the status of owed money have stopped, with the explanation that the issue has been given to another department for completion and they are working on it.
Most members understood that putting all the changes and new provisions of our new contracts into effect probably could not be done in a day. Nobody can comprehend that 100 days later they still haven’t been paid for their shift on November 1st. Is it possible that the company’s payments to Boeing are short by 15% every month and Boeing is fine with that, I was asked this week by a member. If vendors and suppliers and fuel companies and aircraft manufacturers get paid on time why can’t I, he asked. I gave him the response I have been given – the company’s computer system is being updated to handle the payroll demands brought on by our contract and it is taking a lot of time to fix. He didn’t appreciate that answer any more than I do when I hear it but it is the only response we have received.
United knows that getting our members paid up to date is the highest priority of the IAM. We have made it clear that no other aspect of implementing our contract comes close to getting this problem solved. We have offered to help in any way possible, using manpower and technical expertise of our entire Union. Most of all, we have asked for communication to our members to let them know what to expect. We have been told that “no commitments” can be made as to when the owed money will be received so no information can be given. Information District 141 can provide is limited to the information we get from United.
Instead of telling their employees when they will pay them, United has felt the need to brief our members about issues they do not intend to pay you for. District 141 has been informed by members in stations across the system that briefings are being held to announce that areas of payment, such as irregular lunch periods and proper overtime rates, will no longer be paid. In addition, many management representatives are claiming that the IAM is in agreement with these interpretations of our contract. That is absolutely wrong. We believe the language of our contract, especially concerning irregular lunch periods and the qualifications for overtime rates of pay, is clear and not subject to this type of “interpretation”. Our contract requires each employee have a scheduled lunch break and if that schedule is not met, due to operational demands, payment for the lunch period or, at the employee’s option, ending a shift 30 minutes early is the compensation. Any other explanation is wrong. No agreement beyond the contract language has or will be made by the IAM. Anyone claiming there is such an agreement, whether a United representative or a would be candidate for Union office, has no authority to say it and should be challenged to produce some document that shows it. The IAM is working with United to establish implementation guidelines consistent with our contract that both sides can agree with and enforce in order to make our Agreements function. The briefing items we have been made aware of this week are not examples of that work.
An example of our disagreement with United over implementation of language was also raised this week regarding the newly required “40 hour qualifier” for overtime payment. We believe this is also an area of our Agreement that has clearly defined language. Our discussions with the company over this issue are not finished but again the company has felt the need at this time to brief employees about their position and present it as if the IAM was in agreement. The root of our disagreement was found this week after a management representative stated that if the contract language and the IAM’s position are followed, employees will have a greater opportunity for premium pay than if the company’s interpretation is followed. We know that. That is why we negotiated the language the way we did. We will keep working through the processes needed to make our contracts work but we will not agree to procedures that deny our members the compensation they voted for. We are working on a new communication tool that will allow District 141 members to see, issue by issue, the understandings we have reached with United regarding implementation.
Hoped for meetings with United regarding their recent announcement to drastically downsize the Express operation in CLE and impact approximately 430 IAM members could not be held this past week due to conflicting schedules. However, IAM representatives including local, district, and international reps have begun work to modify the impact on our members. Local Lodge 1731 Grievance Chair Bill Pizzuli met with city and state politicians to give the workers’ view on the impact of United’s decision. District officers and representatives talked with and collected the concerns of our CLE members to be used during discussions with United as we move toward the targeted of June, regarding seniority rights and protections. Our International Legislative activists are developing a plan for lobbying for Congressional action on behalf of our CLE members.
During our recent negotiations the main focus of our discussions regarding job security was the encroachment of outside contract employees taking our work. We addressed that in several ways that may assist our members both in CLE and stations all across the system. One is the commitment to insource work in identified stations. This insourcing will provide new opportunities and vacancies. Another area of our contract that will provide protection is the June 3, 1999 seniority date language that requires United to offer work to IAM represented employees with at least that Date of Hire. This seniority protection date is separate and apart from the contracting out provisions and was negotiated specifically for the type of reduction CLE will likely suffer. Based on United’s announcement it is possible that IAM members with seniority as high as 1990 could be effected. Work in the same classification at the same rate of pay must be made available for protected employees as long as the employee is willing to continue working for United.
The issue of Profit Sharing continues to be of concern to members as they read or hear conflicting information. Previous bulletins have outlined how the pool of money from pre-tax profit is established and how it is distributed to IAM members. The question raised currently, based on information published by United, is why IAM members will receive a little over 1% of the considered earnings for 2013 and other employees will get over 3% of their earnings. The answer is that our contracts have taken the equivalent value of part of our Profit Sharing out of the “pool” and put it into permanent wage rates. Our Agreement has moved a significant amount of money from the possible payment (one time annual payment based on a changing amount of profit) to the guaranteed payment of hourly pay. By doing this we accomplished several things. First, we increased the hourly rate to a higher level. Second, all future general wage increases will be based off of this new rate which will compound the value. Third, it has made other benefits and compensation that are tied to hourly income more valuable such as pension contributions, vacation pay, overtime pay, etc. The determination was that receiving the benefit on an ongoing basis rather than a single varying amount each year was in the best interests of our members. Some other groups – pilots and management – will see changes to their Profit Sharing distribution beginning next year. Other groups – Flight Attendants and Maintenance for example – will negotiate the level of participation in Profit Sharing programs they believe is best for their members in contract talks.
This coming week begins the Special Enrollment for Health Benefits for IAM represented employees. Our contracts call for potential changes in employees’ insurance coverage, both s-UA and s-CO. The Special Enrollment period of February 10 – 21 will allow members to review and choose which coverages and costs work best for their families for 2014. This Special Enrollment is necessary in order to bring all covered members into the same insurance plans with the same benefits.
It is important for all members to actively participate in this enrollment process and make sure they have the coverage they want at a cost they understand. Although all employees participated in the Open Enrollment process last November, all members should again review the information that has been sent to your house, that will be available on Flying Together, and attend a Benefit Fair, if possible, to make as fully an informed decision as possible. Members not participating in this Special Enrollment will have whatever choice they made in the past roll over – which in some cases may increase the monthly premiums and overall costs of that plan. IAM representatives met this past week with United’s Benefits Dept. to receive explanations and training on how to assist our members during this enrollment period. They reviewed the printed material and walked through the interactive information that will be available through the “Ask Alex” website. They will be available through the Benefit Fairs to assist and point members in the right direction to get the information they need to make the choices the new programs offer.
There will be a correction period for this Special Enrollment of February 24 – March 7. After all selections and corrections are made the new coverage will go into effect on April 1st. IAM members will participate in the normal annual enrollment period this coming fall for 2015.