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American Airlines Ground Workers Split On Contract

By Matt Goodman, CBSDFW.com
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aabank American Airlines Ground Workers Split On Contract

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DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Five of the seven bargaining units of the Transport Workers Union have voted to accept American Airlines’ final settlement offer, saying it reduces the number of job cuts.

Units representing fleet service; dispatch; maintenance control technicians; simulator technicians; and ground school and simulator pilot technicians all agreed to the offer.

Representatives of mechanics and store clerks will join the unions that represent pilots and flight attendants in hoping the bankruptcy court will protect their current contracts. The bankruptcy hearing is currently underway in New York.

“There’s five different agreements, they’ll have different things that impact them, but it was either that or the imposed term sheet,” said Bobby Gless, a TWU spokesman. “I guess they’ve spoken and they believe this is in their better interest.”

According to American Airlines spokesman Bruce Hicks, the agreements will save 1,300 jobs for Fleet Service Clerks and 1,960 Maintenance and Related positions, although 700 of those will be reclassified; offer an “Early-Out” package and a profit sharing plan; future pay raises and a 401(k) company match.

“Some of our members found the company’s last offer to be a safer bet than waiting on the court to make a decision,” said TWU’s International President James C. Little in a statement. “The members in bargaining units that voted ‘no’ thought the proposals were not in their best interests. We respect our members’ decision regardless of how they voted.”

The agreements will affect an estimated 11,000 employees. Those who declined the agreements will continue to the Section 1113 process, which, if the judge rules in American’s favor, means settlement terms revert back to what was proposed on March 22 and does “not offer the job savings and improvements offered in the settlement proposals,” Hicks wrote in a statement.

Those terms slice 9,000 TWU jobs, spokesman Jamie Horwitz said. About 4,500 of those cuts come from the two units that turned down American’s latest offer.

“They’re going to see how the court process, the 1113 Process, goes with the judge and plan their negotiations to try and get a better deal,” Gless said of the units that declined the settlements.

Union members voted online and by telephone through the third-party firm BallotPoint Election Services on Monday.

The store clerks voted against the settlement by a mere 26 votes –– 51 percent of voters opposed it. The Maintenance and Related Bargaining Unit vote was a bit more split, with 5,307 opposed to 4,179 supporting ­­–– about 56 percent.

Fifty-nine percent of fleet service clerks accepted American’s settlement as well as 92 percent of dispatchers, 96 percent of ground school instructors, 84 percent of maintenance control technicians and 85 percent of simulator technicians.

“Today’s ratification announcement demonstrates American’s willingness to address the TWU’s interests and the union’s willingness to negotiate new contracts that achieve the cost savings needed for our successful restructuring. We realize this was a very difficult decision for our TWU-represented employees,” said Hicks, American Airlines’ spokesman, in a statement.

Horwitz said he expected the judge to rule on the rejected settlements after June 6. The five that agreed are not at risk of having their contracts severed.

In April, CBS 11 News reported the TWU and American’s unions representing pilots and flight attendants supported the bankrupt airline merging with U.S. Airways. American maintained it would only consider merging after emerging from bankruptcy for nearly a month.

But last week, American announced it had agreed to work with its unsecured creditors to consider a potential merger while still in bankruptcy.

Horwitz’s statement says that move would save 1,000 more jobs for TWU members than the latest settlements allow for.

1080 KRLD’s Chuck Schechner contributed to this report.

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