CHARLOTTE, N.C. ( TheStreet) -- Flight attendants at US Airways ( LCC) have overwhelmingly rejected a tentative contract agreement, reflecting unhappiness with the deal unanimously approved by their negotiating committee after five years of talks. In a letter to union members, the US Airways chapter of the Association of Flight Attendants said that 75% of flight attendants voted to reject. Turnout was heavy, with 5,832 flight attendants, or 90% of the membership, voting.
The rejection represents a setback for the airline, which had hoped to show that could it reach a deal with flight attendants, even while pilots remain locked in a bitter seniority battle and without a joint contract six and a half years after a 2005 merger between US Airways and America West. A deal could diminish the perception that US Airways should not pursue a merger with bankrupt AMR ( AAMRQ.PK) if it cannot resolve labor issues associated with its previous merger. "US Airways Flight Attendants' voices were heard loud and clear: It is imperative that we obtain substantial improvements to our current contracts," said Deborah Volpe, president of the America West flight attendant group, and Mark Gentile, president of the US Airways flight attendant group, in a joint prepared statement. In a letter to members, Volpe and other members of the negotiating committee said union leaders will meet shortly to map out strategy. That will include surveying members on which sections of the tentative contract should be changed in order to reach an agreement that can be ratified. "Based on the results of the survey, we will determine what changes to the tentative agreement to propose to the company," the committee said. The National Mediation Board will continue to oversee talks, and existing contracts will remain in place. Many steps remain before the union could strike, including a release from mediation by the NMB. "We are obviously disappointed that our flight attendants chose to vote against ratification of a new contract, "said US Airways CEO Doug Parker, in a prepared statement. "This tentative agreement was the result of years of deliberate negotiations (and) it was also unanimously approved by the AFA negotiating committee."