After more than two years of direct talks with Southwest Airlines, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) today announced it filed for mediation with the National Mediation Board (NMB), the federal agency that oversees contact negotiations in the airline industry.
“Southwest earned nearly a billion dollars last year, is on pace to report a larger profit for this year, has the most productive workforce in the airline industry and yet refuses to offer any real improvements,” said IAM District 142 President Tom Higginbotham. “Management is hell-bent to move to a risky variable compensation system as opposed to offering guaranteed wage increases. It’s clear this is a numbers oriented airline instead of a people oriented airline.”
Coupled with Southwest’s deteriorating labor relations, the carrier’s operational performance has plummeted: The carrier has among the worst on-time arrival rate in the airline industry, it ranks among the bottom in mishandled baggage and hovers at the top of the airline industry in denied boardings.
“Southwest has merged its way to super-profits and is doing everything it can to stonewall its employees from sharing fairly in the success they’ve worked so hard to create,” continued Higginbotham. “This is greed, pure and simple and the IAM will not stand for it.”
If the IAM’s application for federal mediation is granted by the NMB, the agency then begins the process of attempting to resolve the differences between the parties via mediated discussions. If no agreement can be reached through mediation, the Railway Labor Act (RLA)—the federal law that governs collective bargaining in the airline industry—has several mechanisms to bring both sides together, including arbitration and a possible strike.
The IAM represents approximately 6,000 passenger service and reservation agents at the carrier and has never before had to utilize the NMB’s mediation services to achieve an agreement with Southwest.
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