AMR Flight Attendants To Vote On Contract

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Published: July 21, 2012

Leaders of American Airlines’ flight attendants’ union will let its members vote on the company’s latest contract offer, possibly heading off a threat by the carrier to abandon current agreements and impose stricter terms unilaterally.

The Association of Professional Flight Attendants’ eight-member executive committee voted unanimously to send the plan to members for a vote, union spokesman Anthony DeMaio said on Friday.

American’s parent, AMR, declared bankruptcy in November, citing untenable labour costs, and had been mired in unsuccessful negotiations for concessions from its three primary unions.

Earlier this year, AMR asked a bankruptcy court for permission to ditch its labour contracts and impose stricter, interim terms unilaterally as long-term negotiations carried on.

But Judge Sean Lane, of the US Bankruptcy Court in Manhattan, has not yet had to rule on that request, and may not have to issue a ruling at all if the company can reach consensual deals with its labour factions.

Five of AMR’s seven ground workers’ union groups recently accepted a new deal, with the other two scheduled to vote on one. AMR’s pilots’ union agreed last month to send a contract to its members for a vote.

Judge Lane has postponed his ruling once, agreeing last month to hold off until at least August 8 to give the pilots’ union a chance to conduct its voting process.

The flight attendants’ union will vote by August 19, DeMaio said. Judge Lane has not said whether he will again delay his ruling, but has said in court hearings he would prefer to let the parties hash out their contract disputes consensually.

“The parties intend to notify the court of the developments with APFA,” an AMR spokesman said on Friday.

In a letter to union members, APFA President Laura Glading said union leaders will visit members throughout the country to “circulate as much information as possible” about the deal. Glading admitted the deal is “far from the agreement [the union] wanted,” but serves as a “substantial” improvement over the terms AMR might have otherwise imposed.

AMR initially was seeking USD$ 1.25 billion in annual concessions through bankruptcy, including USD$ 990 million a year from its unions. Those figures may decrease if the unions accept AMR’s latest offers, which lower cost saving targets from 20 percent to 17 percent.

“We’re pleased our flight attendants will have an opportunity to review and vote on this final offer, and are eager to move forward to the next phase of our restructuring,” the spokesman said in a statement on Friday.

With its labour situation closer to resolution, AMR and its creditors are focusing on how the airline will emerge from bankruptcy and whether it may merge with competitor US Airways, which is making an aggressive play to acquire the airline.

US Airways has gained the support of AMR’s unions on a merger. They have said a merger could save more than 6,000 jobs that could be lost if AMR exits bankruptcy independently.

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