US Airways Chooses Labor Unrest

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“US Airways’ celebration is premature,” said IAM District 141 President Rich Delaney on the announcement of a deal between US Airways, American Airlines and the Department of Justice that removed government opposition to the proposed merger. “Until the carrier negotiates new contracts for its own IAM-represented employees, the new American Airlines will not get off the ground.”

The IAM and the Transport Workers Union (TWU), which represents American Airlines’ ground employees, earlier this year formed an alliance to jointly represent the combined airline’s 30,000 workers in the Mechanic and Related, Fleet Service and Stock Clerk classifications. Terms of the alliance agreement state both unions must agree when to request the National Mediation Board (NMB) determine the two carriers are operating as a single transportation system for employee representation purposes.

Only a union, and not an airline, can make such a request. Until the NMB issues its single carrier rulings, employees cannot be integrated and work will remain divided.

“Under our current contract, American Airlines employees cannot maintain US Airways’ planes and we can’t touch American’s aircraft,” said IAM District 142 President Tom Higginbotham.

“Similarly, US Airways employees can’t handle ground operations where TWU members are present and vice-versa,” added Delaney. “The synergies and seamless operation the airlines promised shareholders and passengers will not exist until our members get new contracts. US Airways has chosen to start this merger off with major labor unrest.”

After nearly three years of fruitless bargaining, the IAM has requested the NMB release it and US Airways from further mediated negotiations and declare the parties are at an impasse. This would trigger a 30-day cooling off period after which IAM members could be free to strike the airline.

“US Airways has been too focused on its merger plans and getting agreements with American’s unions to care about its own workforce,” said Higginbotham.

“US Airways’ claims of labor peace are just another in a string of lies that airlines tell the public and the government in order to get mergers approved,” added Delaney.

Details on the agreement will be forthcoming.