AA unions press for US Airways merger
BY D.R. STEWART World Staff Writer
Friday, May 04, 2012
5/04/12 at 4:36 AM
See previous stories about American Airlines and its Tulsa operations.
In an open letter to the AMR Corp. board of directors on Thursday, the presidents of American Airlines' pilots, mechanics and flight attendants unions said a merger with US Airways is a better course than a stand-alone bankruptcy restructuring.
The open letter was sent a week after American's three unions reached collective bargaining agreements with US Airways management that would govern labor rates and conditions in the event of a merger.
The presidents of the Allied Pilots Association, the Transport Workers Union and the Association of Professional Flight Attendants co-signed the open letter, which will be featured in advertisements in the Friday editions of The Wall Street Journal, The Dallas Morning News and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
The letter asks the board of American parent, AMR, which filed its bankruptcy petition on Nov. 29, "to engage with US Airways management now" and proceed with a merger of the two airlines.
"We are firmly convinced that the alternative plan of reorganization sponsored by US Airways management represents the best path forward for American Airlines," said APA President Dave Bates. "This plan would preserve and enhance the American Airlines brand, retain the airline's Fort Worth home and save thousands of jobs that would otherwise be eliminated under AMR management's stand-alone plan."
AMR executives said they need $1.25 billion a year in labor cost savings - $2 billion a year in savings overall - and 13,000 job cuts to emerge from bankruptcy and compete successfully in the airline industry.
Among the job cuts originally proposed by the company are 2,100 mechanics at American's Tulsa Maintenance & Engineering Center, which employs 6,000 mechanics and related work groups, and 8,500 mechanics companywide out of 24,000 mechanics and ground workers represented by the TWU.
Earlier this week, American presented its "final best" offer to the TWU in which the job cut numbers were reduced, but exact numbers aren't available because of seniority bumping rights of union members and proposed changes to job classifications.
US Airways said it would cut only 450 jobs in Tulsa and grant two-year furlough protection to 4,500 mechanics. Systemwide, a merger would eliminate about 4,900 mechanics, baggage handlers and other ground workers, the Tempe, Ariz.-based carrier said.
TWU International President James C. Little said the union has negotiated for years with American management without an agreement.
"In our union, we have tried to explore every option that would save jobs at American Airlines and keep the airline competitive," Little said. "We think the AMR board of directors should do the same. US Airways has offered a very attractive proposal and the board of directors should consider it now."
APFA President Laura Glading said the unions have been united since the company filed for bankruptcy.
"Although we each have unique interests, we have worked together very closely to protect the contractual provisions and benefits of our members," Glading said. "We expect management to try to pry us apart, but I believe this letter tells the board that we intend to see this effort through together.
"Consolidation with US Airways is American's best avenue out of bankruptcy and back to prosperity."
Until five years ago, American was the nation's largest airline.
But the merger of Northwest Airlines with Delta Air Lines and the combination of Continental Airlines and United Airlines has left the Fort Worth carrier in third place and losing ground in the lucrative business and premium travel market, industry analysts said.
A merger between fifth-ranked US Airways and American would again return American to the top spot, and it would provide it with access to East Coast hubs and markets where it is weak, analysts said.
American CEO Thomas Horton, however, said he opposes any merger until the company emerges from bankruptcy.
U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Sean Lane has given AMR the exclusive right to craft a reorganization plan until at least Sept. 28, court documents show.
The three unions on Thursday initiated online petitions of "no confidence" in AMR management's ability to successfully restructure the company.
American executives could not be reached for comment.
Original Print Headline: AA unions press for US Airways merger
D.R. Stewart 918-581-8451