American Airlines Taking its Mechanics to Court Over Work Slowdown Affecting 125,000 Customers

American Airlines has gone to court for an injunction against their mechanics’ union, accusing them of a work slowdown leading to “650 flight cancellations and more than 1500 maintenance delays” affecting 125,000 customers, according to a letter sent to employees. They contend that the degree of issues they’ve faced would be “one-in-one billion” if left to chance rather than the result of “concerted activity.”

There’s still no joint maintenance contract for US Airways and American Airlines mechanics. Negotiations have been contentious, and are currently in mediation.

  • American wants to be able to do more outsourcing. They promise current workers will keep their jobs and pay and work locations, but the average age of mechanics is in the mid-50s and American wants to be able to shift work elsewhere over time — as United and Delta do.

  • American wants lower health care costs. They want to move US Airways mechanics over to the legacy American plan.

  • There doesn’t seem to be a strong reason for mechanics to agree to these changes. American Airlines gave employees across the board raises without insisting that changes be part of a contract. The airline says that’s made it harder to get mechanics to agree to a deal. More money remains on the table with a new deal, but it’s less of a difference than it otherwise would have been.

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. Workers say they don’t want a concessionary contract.

I spoke to executives last fall who believed there was a maintenance slowdown in place, and efforts to write up issues unnecessarily. Unions are much more careful than they used to be about illegal job actions.

Twenty years ago the American pilots union was fined $45 million because there was written proof they were encouraging a sick out than led to as many as a quarter of the airline’s pilots calling out at a time over a ten day period. During American’s bankruptcy pilots engaged in a work slowdown, but there wasn’t tangible proof.

Regardless of where this court action goes, it’s indication of the extent to which negotiations have become acrimonious and it’s not surprising that the airline’s operation suffers. Southwest Airlines just signed a rich new deal with its own mechanics after facing a slowdown of their own.

Here’s American’s letter to employees about the injunction they’re seeking:

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Pingbacks

  1. […] American Airlines Taking its Mechanics to Court Over Work Slowdown Affecting 125,000 Customers by VFTW. Really don’t like airlines taking mechanics to court over these sort of things. I think if successful it can set a dangerous precedent. For example American Airlines is claiming that mechanics are writing up issues that aren’t necessary. In my opinion if there is an issue, it should be written up and fixed. If American Airlines are claiming mechanics are lying about issues, that’s a completely separate issue. […]

Comments

  1. I remember when the merger was announced. Majority “expert” opinion was this mannah from heaven would be the end to labor problems. Management and labor would joint hands to sing kumbayah.

  2. Good thing American will never lose money again. That way they can share some with the mechanics.

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