3457675 AMR Unions Seek Early Retirement Incentives

The American Airlines logo is seen on the tail of a jet. (credit: Tim Boyle/Getty Images)

FORT WORTH (AP) – Two major unions at American Airlines are asking the company to offer incentives for workers to retire early as a way to reduce planned layoffs.

The Association of Professional Flight Attendants and the Transport Workers Union made separate early-out offers to the company on Wednesday. The pilots’ union, which stands to take the lightest hit from layoffs, did not join in the proposals by the other unions.

An American Airlines spokesman said that the company hadn’t had enough time to evaluate the early-retirement proposals.

American said two weeks ago that it planned to cut 13,000 jobs, end pension plans and make other changes to save $1.25 billion a year in labor costs. American and parent AMR Corp. filed for bankruptcy protection on Nov. 29. AMR has 88,000 full-time and part-time employees, including nearly 74,000 at American.

The airline wants to cut 2,300 flight-attendant jobs. The workers’ union proposed that employees who agree to retire get full pensions and medical coverage until they become eligible for Medicare. The union estimated that up to 3,000 might take the offer, which it called “a fair and decent way” to reduce jobs.

The union said 80 percent of its members are at the top of the pay scale. If they are furloughed, they would retain rehiring rights at top pay. The union said the company could save money by hiring new flight attendants at lower rates.

The Transport Workers Union represents mechanics, bag handlers and other employees who would bear the brunt of proposed layoffs. That’s about 9,000.

The TWU said it proposed a one-time payment of $75,000, plus health insurance and other benefits, to encourage ground workers to retire early. The union modeled its proposal on a plan at United Airlines and said it would avoid “draconian” layoffs and save money for the company.

AMR spokesman Bruce Hicks said, “We will, of course, consider any proposal from our unions” that saves money and leads to a profitable company. He said the company received the unions’ proposals Wednesday afternoon and hadn’t had time to evaluate them.

If American and the unions can’t agree on cuts, the company can ask a bankruptcy judge to impose its plan. The director of the U.S. Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. has signaled his opposition to the airline’s intention to terminate its pension plans and turn them over to his government agency.

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