Union discusses AMR Corp. contract vote
BY Staff Reports
Wednesday, May 09, 2012
5/09/12 at 1:04 PM
See previous stories about American Airlines and its Tulsa operations.
Hours before voting begins by American Airlines mechanics on the company’s “final best” offer, Transport Workers Union local 514 spokesmen said members are faced with the most important decision in the 65-year history of the Tulsa maintenance base.
“We are at a critical juncture in the bankruptcy process, and this vote is extremely important,” said John Hewitt, chairman of maintenance for TWU Local 514.
Although Hewitt and other mechanics said advocates of the no vote have been most outspoken, a vote to turn down the company’s final offer would result in significantly higher job losses in Tulsa and systemwide.
The elimination of many of the hard-won benefits of collective bargaining over the last 65 years would also be lost, they said.
A no vote, TW officials said, would result in the loss of about 2,600 jobs at the Tulsa maintenance base.
A yes vote on the final offer would save about 1,300 jobs at the Tulsa base, they said.
A yes vote also would preserve the framework of the collective bargaining agreement that TW members have been working under for much of the past half century.
AMR Corp., the parent of American Airlines, filed for bankruptcy on Nov. 29, 2011, after posting losses of more than $10 billion over the previous decade.
The company said initially that it needed to cut 13,000 jobs and reduce labor costs by $1.25 billion per year to emerge from bankruptcy and compete in the airline industry.
After three months negotiations, American presented its final offer to 24,000 TWU-represented employees of the company.
“Either way, it’s a very concessionary contract,” Hewitt said. “If you’re looking for good news, it’s hard to find it under a concessionary agreement.”
The TWU has about 5,000 mechanics and related workers in Tulsa at American's maintenance and engineering center.
AMR's offer would give mechanics, technicians and ground workers 7.5 percent wage increases over six years.
The offer, however, also includes changes in work rules and job classifications. And, up to up to 35 percent of in-house heavy maintenance could be outsourced, under current terms.
AMR officials initially said they wanted to cut 2,100 jobs in Tulsa, but the latest contract calls for half as many layoffs locally.
The union vote is scheduled for Thursday through Monday.
“The decision of our members will have a direct impact on the American Airlines work force as well as the Tulsa area communities," Hewitt said. "Our members will have to do a lot of soul searching before casting this difficult ballot. Every ballot cast represents what is best not only for that individual, but for their families as well.”
Transport Workers Union Local 514 Chairman of Maintenance John Hewitt (right) stands with other union representatives Wednesday during a news conference at Transport Workers Union offices in Tulsa. MICHAEL WYKE/Tulsa World