US Airways Flight Attendants Head Back to Table, Seeking a Deal

CHARLOTTE, N.C. ( TheStreet) -- US Airways ( LCC) flight attendants are headed back to negotiations, two and a half months after overwhelmingly rejecting a tentative agreement.

"I have a strong feeling we will be able to resolve our outstanding issues," said Roger Holmin, the newly elected president of the US Airways chapter of the Association of Flight Attendants. The union's intent, he said, is to sign a contract: The possibility of a merger with bankrupt American ( AAMRQ.PK) should not interfere with that.

US Airways flight attendants are working under a 2004 contract, but US Airways already has a tentative deal with the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, which represents American flight attendants.

New talks are scheduled for June 18 through June 22 in Phoenix.

"We want to get our deal done before we have to move on to the next deal," Holmin said. "We want (CEO) Doug Parker and his people to focus on the employees that currently work here. And we are headed in that direction."

After the tentative contract agreement was rejected in March by 75% of the members who voted, US Airways union leaders met with the mediator assigned to the case and presented a proposed contract. "Usually the National Mediation Board throws the parties into recess when a contract is rejected," Holmin said. "But we were able to convince them it was possible to get a deal done and they granted our request to return to the table."

After the contract was rejected, the union surveyed members on needed improvements. "Compensation and job security are important to our members," Holmin said. He declined to discuss specifics of the survey because the union has not yet presented its new proposal to the company.

Al Hemenway, US Airways vice president of labor relations, said in a prepared statement: "We continue to talk with AFA, and are hopeful that in the near-term, we can find a mutually agreeable path toward a deal."

While the union is not focused on a merger, Holmin said union leaders met with APFA leaders in Washingtonlast month and the meeting went smoothly.

Holman replaced Mark Gentile, who was appointed acting president after local leaders ousted longtime union president Mike Flores in April, apparently because Flores strongly backed the tentative agreement that was reached after five years of talks. Flores had announced that he planned to step down, but he was ousted 10 days before the contract vote.

Union leaders elected Holmin to a term that runs May 1 through Dec. 31, 2013. He is a 22-year flight attendant, based in Philadelphia, who started with USAir in Pittsburgh: recently, he has primarily been flying international A330 trips. A longtime union activist, Holmin was vice president during the 2004-2005 US Airways bankruptcy. Then he took a seven-year break. His leisure time activities include operating a small horse farm in Nashville.

-- Written by Ted Reed in Charlotte, N.C.

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