Monday 20 August 2012

American Airlines Flight Attendants Accept Contract Offer

Flight attendants at American Airlines accepted the company’s contract offer on Sunday, a decision that will help the bankrupt carrier in its efforts to cut labor costs.The Association of Professional Flight Attendants said in a statement that the contract was favored by 59.5 percent. It said 92.8 percent of the 13,544 eligible voters had cast ballots.

The approval by the flight attendants eliminated the possibility that American’s parent, the AMR Corporation, would try to void the contract and impose stricter labor terms. Union-represented ground workers have already approved new contracts with concessions.

The vote left pilots, who rejected a tentative contract this month, as American’s only major work group that has not reached consensual deals with givebacks. AMR has said it needs to save $1.06 billion a year in overall labor costs, and about $842 million from its unions.Bruce Hicks, an AMR spokesman, said in a statement that the flight attendants’ vote was an important step in the company’s reorganization.

“We know this was not an easy decision for our flight attendants and we are very pleased with the choice they made,” Mr. Hicks said.The flight attendants’ union said in its statement on the vote that it “will now continue our strong and concise message that we have zero confidence in this management team.”

On Friday, American renewed a request to United States Bankruptcy Court in New York to terminate its existing collective bargaining agreements with the pilots’ union, the Allied Pilots Association, and impose stricter terms. In an Aug. 15 ruling, Judge Sean Lane denied American’s original motion in part because it would give the carrier unrestricted ability to lay off pilots temporarily and share flights with other carriers.

Pilots rejected American’s most recent offer by 61 percent to 39 percent on Aug. 8. Should the bankruptcy court permit American to scrap the pilots’ contract, the carrier would still need to negotiate a long-term deal.

Resolving labor issues would allow American Airlines to shift focus to its planned emergence from bankruptcy — and whether it will do so alone or as part of a merger with another carrier like US Airways Group. Last month, American began sending nondisclosure agreements to potential merger partners.

Leaders of the flight attendants’ union had urged members to accept AMR’s offer. AMR’s creditors committee also weighed in last week, urging the unions to reach consensual contracts rather than be left at the mercy of deals the court would permit.

Shekhar Gupta
Capt. Shekhar Gupta [ Pilot, DIAM, M.Ae.S.I., MAOPA [USA] ] 
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