Mechanics at American Airlines don’t have a new joint contract yet after the merger. There are US Airways and American legacy work groups, and everyone wants the best of both contracts. That would be far more expensive than the airline is willing to pay – and more expensive than what competitors pay.
American Airlines President Robert Isom explained to employees in Philadelphia this week that they can’t just take the best, most expensive version from each airline for every item in the contract.
The airline unilaterally raised pay as much as 24%, so that mechanics wouldn’t be going without pay increases without a new contract. Isom said that while “it didn’t seem right to withhold that” $8000 or $10,000 a year or more from mechanics and fleet service workers.
However “it took a lot of the pressure to really get something done immediately off.” The airline needs to address things in the contract to complete the merger: time off (sick policies, holidays, vacation); retirement (defined benefit plans on one side, 401(k) on the other); pay disparities; medical plan differences.
If they hadn’t given everyone raises on their own already, that would be a huge incentive to get a new contract done that solves all the issues needed to merger the work groups. However that’s not what they did,
You could say ‘hey there is a giant landslide of good stuff that’s coming as a result of negotiating.’ Unfortunately we’ve limited ourselves because the big pay increase has already been given…
Isom doesn’t think they’re close to a deal “that’s almost there.” He says they’re offering six weeks of vacation, but some want seven. They want a defined contribution plan that’s more expensive than what’s offered today – but not defined benefit. there are disagreements on outsourcing. He says they’re trying to get everyone “to Delta plus three.” (Once again comparing themselves to Delta.)
While we’re about six months away from completing the tech to combined flight attendants into a single work group, the merger may not be done even then — even though as Isom says “what has been put on the table is better than anything Delta or United have… I would sign United or Delta’s contracts, or lack of a contract Delta doesn’t have a contract, I would take their work rules and I would take United’s and I would sign it today” because what they’re offering costs more than either of those airlines.