US Airways Unions on Merger: Don't Forget About Us

CHARLOTTE, N.C. ( TheStreet) -- US Airways ( LCC) unions aren't opposing a merger with AMR ( AMMRQ.PK), but they say US Airways' existing employees should not be forgotten.

US Airways said Friday it has reached tentative contract agreements with American's three largest unions, and the unions agreed to back a merger. It does not, however, have joint contracts with its own pilots or flight attendants.

The US Airline Pilots Association, which represents about 5,000 Us Airways pilots, said it has been in contact with American's Allied Pilots Association and has scheduled its first face-to-face meetings for next week.

Pilot seniority is likely to be a high-profile, lingering issue in any merger, particularly because a controversial seniority ruling has so far prevented pilots at US Airways and the former America West Airlines from reaching a joint contract agreement following a 2005 merger.

"US Airways pilots and American pilots have a lot in common," USAPA president Gary Hummel said in a prepared statement. "After the 9/11 attacks, American pilots took billions in contract concessions that remain in effect, and US Airways pilots lost their pensions and gave up $7 billion in wage and benefit concessions in order to keep their airline solvent.

"If a deal is made, it must include a commitment by management that recognizes the sacrifices that pilots have made to keep the airlines flying and it must be mutually beneficial," Hummel said.

US Airways' roughly 6,700 flight attendants recently voted overwhelming to reject a joint contract after five years of negotiations.

In a message to members, Deborah Volpe and Mark Gentile, president and acting president of the America West and US Airways flight attendant groups, who still have separate contracts, declared, "We must reach a single agreement that addresses our contributions to US Airways prior to any new merger deal.

"We appreciate innovative efforts for an airline business model that supports jobs with good wages, work rules, benefits and a secure retirement," the two leaders said. "That starts at home."

The merger occurred in 2005, but "seven years later our deal still isn't done," the leaders reminded.

Meanwhile, the International Association of Machinists, which represents 15,000 mechanics, fleet service workers and others at US Airways, said it will "aggressively represent" its members and protect their seniority, job-security, wages, benefits and pensions. The same work groups at AMR are represented by the Transport Workers Union, which could set up a conflict in the event of a merger.

"The IAM will oppose any merger that would take place at the expense of workers, the flying public, and the communities served by these two airlines," said IAM Transportation general vice president Sito Pantoja, in a prepared statement.

"We have a long history at US Airways, with substantial experience defending members during mergers and uncertain economic times," he added. "The IAM will fight for the fair treatment of all employees at US Airways and American Airlines."

-- Written by Ted Reed in Charlotte

>To contact the writer of this article, click here: Ted Reed

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