Ray Villeda, NBC 5 News
Five units of the union for ground workers at American Airlines have accepted the company's final contract offer but mechanics have rejected it. A company spokesman says the results will save 1,300 jobs but an offer to save about 2,000 maintenance jobs could be dead.
Five of the seven separate work groups for The Transport Workers Union announced Tuesday that they have accepted American Airlines' “last, best, and final” contract offer, while the Aircraft Maintenance and Related workers and Stores Clerks have rejected the offer.
According to the TWU, the Fleet Service Clerks, Dispatchers, Ground School Instructors, Maintenance Control Techs and Simulator Techs all voted to approve successor contracts. Stores Clerks and Maintenance and Related rejected the final offer.
American Airlines said the agreements reached Tuesday will save about 1,300 jobs, provide for early-out packages, a profit-sharing plan, 401(k) matching and future pay increases.
“American Airlines is pleased to announce ratified agreements with five work groups represented by the Transport Workers Union (TWU)," said Bruce Hicks, American Airlines spokesperson. “We are disappointed that the Mechanic & Related and Stores work groups did not ratify the company’s latest settlement proposals. For these groups, we will continue to pursue our 1113 Motion to reject the current labor agreements. It’s important to note that if the 1113 motion is approved, American will move forward with implementation of the March 22 term sheets, which do not offer the job savings and improvements offered in the settlement proposals."
Hicks said the airline will continue to negotiate in good faith with the TWU with the goal of reaching consensual agreements.
Local union leaders say that the five groups that accepted the contract should be exempt from bankruptcy court proceedings while the two groups that rejected the offer leave their fate to the bankruptcy court.
Among those who rejected the offer were workers at American's maintenance facility in Tulsa, Fort Worth Alliance Airport and mechanics at DFW International Airport.
According to the TWU:
Fifty-nine percent of Fleet Service Clerks (3,872 to 2,722) voted to accept management’s last offer; along with 92 percent of Dispatchers (134 to 12); 96 percent of Ground School Instructors (126 to 5); 84 percent of Maintenance Control Technicians (72 to 14); and 85 percent of Simulator Technicians (53 to 9) voted “yes.” With these approvals the TWU leadership will next seek court approval of these five successor contracts.
Stores clerks voted “no” in a close vote (521 to 495) with 51 percent opposed; and the union’s Maintenance and Related bargaining unit voted down the company’s last offer with 56 percent opposed (5,307 to 4,179).
Local maintenance and stores clerks, who rejected the deal, say what American is offering isn’t as good as it sounds.
Local 565 President Gary Peterson said the airline would force workers to contribute 3 percent to their 401(k) to receive a company match. Peterson said that would cut the proposed 7.5 percent raise almost in half. Employees will also have to absorb increasing medical costs. Peterson said under a 6-year deal, employees would be making less money in 2018 than they did in 2001.
Local workers said they’ll continue to try to come to an agreement with American, let a judge decide whether to toss out their contracts, and then figure out where to go from there.
“We don’t consider it a gamble. We consider it a travesty what’s been presented to us, aircraft maintenance and stores, stands to be the lowest paid in the industry. We know that going in, our position was we can sign up for 6 more years being the lowest paid in the industry, we can speak to a judge about why we don’t think our contracts should be abolished, because we are going to be the lowest paid in the industry. The message to the airline is come back to the table and negotiate with us. Negotiate in good faith. The employees deserve it, we deserve better,” said Peterson.
Peterson said he doesn’t fault the five other TWU groups for approving the agreement.
“They made decisions on what was presented to them. Some of those are good agreements, we don’t dispute that. Unfortunately the offers for us made by American were sub-standard and unacceptable. The members have spoken,” said Peterson.
Since they rejected the offer, the Maintenance and Related and Stores Clerks groups of the TWU will continue on in bankruptcy court with the flight attendants and pilots. The pilots’ union began presenting their case to the bankruptcy judge Monday. That testimony is expected to continue Tuesday as the unions try to convince a judge not to toss out contracts and slash around 13,000 jobs.
The flight attendants will then make their plea, followed by TWU groups that didn't accept the deal.
NBC 5's Ray Villeda contributed to this report.