In the event of a merger, laid-off flight attendants would be entitled to 60% of their salary for five years, likely ensuring that none would be laid off. That provision was in the existing east contract, but US Airways "desperately wanted to get rid of it, and that became the end point of negotiations," Flores says. "We told the NMB there was no way we would reach a deal if that was watered down. The tentative agreement also has new language that binds any merger partner to honor this protection.
US Airways executives have been saying for two years that the airline is profitable only because it enjoys a labor cost advantage over its peers, which compensates for smaller hubs that cannot produce equivalent unit revenue. "If you look at the history of these negotiations, this company has maintained that to be profitable it needed a 15% labor cost advantage over competitors," Flores says. "This contract erases that notion."
Union leaders are prepared to explain the tentative deal to members at a series of meetings over the next several weeks. A vote is expected to conclude by early April. Some opposition has already emerged. The two groups will merge 18 months after signing, creating a single work group with its own scheduling, which for the east would end a decades-old model in which flight attendant crews have been paired with pilots. Some flight attendants believe the model protects their work rules, although Flores says the work rules are protected in the tentative agreement.Another change, which benefits the company, means flight attendants will schedule trips two to three weeks in advance, rather than two to three months in advance, enabling the carrier to better match crews with aircraft and passenger loads. Additionally, west flight attendants would lose several vacation days per year. "This contract improves people's financial lives," says Flores, a 30-year flight attendant whose wife is also a flight attendant. "Anybody can pick through it and find a provision or two they don't like. But in negotiations, as in life, you do not always get everything you want. You get the best you can through the process." -- Written by Ted Reed in Charlotte, N.C. >To contact the writer of this article, click here: Ted Reed >To follow the writer on Twitter, go to http://twitter.com/tedreednc. >To contact the writer of this article, click here: Ted Reed