American Airlines gave employees across the board raises without insisting that the pay changes be part of a contract. The airline says that’s made it harder to get mechanics to agree to a contract. American mechanics have already gotten much of the money they’re going to get with a new contract, so there’s less incentive for employees to agree to rules changes the airline wants.
The carrier is offering terms they say are more costly than what United and Delta have with their mechanics, so a common refrain from management has been that they would happily sign either the United or Delta deal today.
On the other hand American:
- does want to outsource more maintenance work going forward. Even if it won’t wind up costing any current union members jobs or hours, unions are loathe to agree to it out of fear it reduces their leverage in the future.
- wants to move legacy US Airways workers over to a less generous health plan (like what American employees have had)
Over at over at employee forums and town halls, maintenance workers express their frustrations. They have felt the airline hasn’t “negotiated in good faith” by slow walking contract negotiations.
Anecdotally there are reports that some of American’s recent operational challenges stem from maintenance slow-walking addressing of issues with aircraft.
I don’t have a dog in this fight. I do not know what the right level of compensation is for American Airlines mechanics. While not entirely at the feet of maintenance workers themselves, there’s no question that Delta’s Techops vastly outperforms American’s. I’m not sure American employees ought to make more than counterparts at Delta.
And I don’t worry about outsourcing.
- Airline travel is safer than ever across the world. In fact in one ranking there’s only a single US carrier among the world’s 15 safest.
- The safest airlines around the world have their maintenance done throughout the world.
- Less expensive maintenance means it’s easier to buy more of it.
As a passenger, though, I want a smooth running operation. I want maintenance workers doing their jobs quickly and efficiently and most of all safely.
American says they love unions, but their unions don’t seem to love them. Now the carrier has asked for a federal mediator to get involved and wrap up a contract with mechanics.
Here’s the airline’s letter to employees about the move:
Mediation isn’t always a bad step. Today the Communications Workers of America announced that they reached a tentative agreement with American’s wholly owned regional subsidiary Piedmont Airlines for a new passenger service agent contract, achieved through mediation.
My sense is that American management has been a bit too cavalier with their maintenance workers, telling them over and over that they’re getting a great deal and that they’re just not able to realize it. That strategy hasn’t worked. Hopefully this one will — rather than ultimately progressing to even later stages of collective bargaining negotiation tactics.