American Airlines' new offer weighed by TWU members
BY D.R. STEWART World Staff Writer
Thursday, July 12, 2012
7/12/12 at 7:35 AM
See previous stories about American Airlines and its Tulsa operations.
Once again it appears the outcome of a contract ratification vote at American Airlines' Transport Workers Union will be determined by the divide between the Tulsa Maintenance & Engineering Center and a dozen airport line stations, union members say.
Over the next month, about 11,000 mechanics and related workers and stock clerks will vote on whether to accept or reject bankrupt American's revised "final" offer.
The tentative six-year contract that TWU negotiators agreed Tuesday to bring to members for a vote includes 15 percent wage increases over six years, improved health insurance and other benefits for mechanics and 10.5 percent wage increases and improved benefits for stock clerks.
The tentative agreement is a significant improvement over the 7.5 percent wage increases of the "final" offer rejected by the mechanics and stock clerks in May.
But it still might not be good enough, union members say.
"It's right on the edge of what I would be happy with," said a 25-year Tulsa mechanic who declined to be quoted by name.
"It's lipstick on a pig as far as we are concerned," said Gary Peterson, president of TWU Local 565 at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. "There's no new money involved in the discussion. There is no system protection or job guarantees or cap on the number of people they can lay off. They can lay off, by seniority, any amount they need to in any location they choose to."
American's parent, AMR Corp., filed for bankruptcy in November after losing $10 billion over the previous decade.
American executives said they need $1.25 billion a year in labor cost reductions, including $390 million a year from the TWU, to emerge from bankruptcy and compete successfully in the airline industry.
Initially, American said it must cut 13,000 jobs from a 73,000-person work force, including more than 4,000 mechanics to achieve its cost-saving goals. After five TWU work groups agreed to the company's final offer in May, the company said 1,300 jobs would be saved.
But the job cuts remain a key issue for the TWU and the Tulsa M&E base, where 5,600 mechanics and related work groups and 7,000 people overall are employed.
Another major issue is the outsourcing of aircraft maintenance. American said it must be able to outsource 40 percent of its aircraft maintenance now performed in house.
With the closing of American's Kansas City maintenance base and the impending shuttering of its base at Alliance Airport in Fort Worth, the Tulsa M&E base will be the focus - and take the brunt - of maintenance downsizing.
"I have total confidence I will survive this today," said Del Cotton, a machinist/mechanic in Tulsa. "But I don't know the full impact of outsourcing. I don't know what the commitment level of the company is."
Dan McCoy, a veteran Tulsa mechanic, said the tentative agreement contains improvements from the earlier offer but remains behind the pay and benefits of other carriers in the industry.
"Mechanics are frustrated by continuing to get contract offers from the TWU that have much lower pay and benefits that what United and Delta have," McCoy said.
Chuck Schalk, vice president of TWU Local 562 in New York, and Peterson, Local 565 president at DFW, said American is orchestrating the contract ratification process by giving just enough to sway the several hundred votes needed for passage.
"The company is going for a 50 percent-plus-one vote, which is a disgrace and a smack in the face because, in my opinion, a contract should pass by a clear majority," Schalk said. "The tentative agreement is not enough. I'm telling my members to vote 'no' on it."
Peterson said mechanics and stock clerks shouldn't fear AMR's motion in bankruptcy court to cancel its union collective bargaining agreements.
U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Sean Lane has postponed a ruling on AMR's motion until after the contract ratification votes in early August by the TWU and the Allied Pilots Association.
"From our perspective, we're not willing to have something shoved down our throats," Peterson said. "Abrogation (of the collective bargaining agreements) really puts us back to negotiation. The vast majority of (mechanic and stock clerk) members in the system don't fear abrogation or they would have accepted the company's last best offer.
"It's die by a gun or die by a sword - both ways you're going to die."
Vote on American’s ‘final’ offer in May
Maintenance & related
Stores or stock clerks
Source: Transport Workers Union
Original Print Headline: Workers weighing new offer from AA
D.R. Stewart 918-581-8451
An American Airlines plane arrives at Tulsa International Airport. MIKE SIMONS/Tulsa World