American Airlines union asks federal board to start countdown to strike
Thursday, March 11, 2010
By TERRY MAXON / The Dallas Morning News
The Transport Workers Union asked the Natioinal Mediation Board today torelease it from mediation and start the 30-day cooling off period that couldlead to a strike against American Airlines Inc., the union said.
"We have been at the bargaining table for years and will continue to worktoward agreements," said John Conley, president of the TWU's Air TransportDivision, "but it's time that we moved the settlement process to the nextstep."American Airlines spokeswoman Missy Latham said the carrier was"disappointed that the TWU has chosen this course."
"American continues to believe any talk of 'release' at this time ispremature and thinks that actions such as these can be detrimental to theprocess, undermining the ability of both parties to get a deal thatpositions the company and its employees for long term success," Latham said.American said that it expects NMB mediator Terri Brown, who has beeninvolved in the talks since last year, to schedule more mediation sessionstoday.
Some TWU negotiating units have talks scheduled for late March and early April. It now is up to the mediation board to decide whether the two sides havereached an impasse in their talks. Neither the union, which representsground workers at American, nor the carrier can engage in "self help" untilthe NMB allows it.
American said Wednesday night that it expects NMB mediator Terri Brown,which has been involved in the talks since last year, to schedule moremediation sessions today.
That would forestall any declaration of astalemate.In an update to members, the union indicated that the major sticking pointremaining is American's efforts to outsource work now down by TWU members,such as cleaning aircraft between flights.
"It is the belief of your Negotiating Committee that we can no longer justgive away more jobs, such as the systemwide outsourcing of day line cabinservice," TWU said. " The outsourcing would not only impact those in thatwork group but would also affect members in other areas, including those inmany down line cities.
"The union said it had attempted in talks to get American to recognize theconcessions made by employees in 2003, but "it became apparent the companywas still trying to extract more concessions from the membership."The TWU has been in talks for most of the 11 bargaining units it representsat American and American Eagle since late 2007.
The Association of Professional Flight Attendants, in talks with Americansince mid 2008, has scheduled a meeting next week with the NMB to seek arelease from their talks.
The next step now for the NMB is to inform American Airlines of the TWU'srequest and establish a comment period of 10 days to two weeks.Under the Railway Labor Act which governs airline labor relations, theNational Mediation Board controls the ability of unions or airlines to endnegotiations.
If the NMB thinks that further talks will result in a deal or more progress,it orders the two sides to continue negotiations under a mediator's watch.
But if it concludes that further talks would not be productive, it wouldproffer the airline and union binding arbitration to decide the outstandingissues.If either side doesn't want to accept binding arbitration, the board wouldrelease the two sides into the 30-day period.Absent an agreement during that 30 days, either the carrier or union couldtake action, such as a strike or work slowdown by employees or a lockout orimposed contract by the airline.