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Hundreds Of AA Workers Could Soon Lose Jobs

By Jack Fink & Bud Gillett, CBS 11 News

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FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) - Hundreds of American Airlines mechanics, stock clerks and other DFW area workers who are represented by the Transport Workers Union received Reduction in Force notices Thursday morning, and this week they could lose their jobs. This is part of the mass layoff notice American Airlines sent out last month, but only now are employees finding out who will actually be out of work.

Bob Kirk, treasurer of TWU Local 567 at the airline’s maintenance facility at Alliance Airport in Fort Worth, said that 750 RIF  notices will be going out to employees there starting Thursday morning. Workers with more seniority will bump junior employees with similar jobs. Kirk said that there are still nearly 750 vacancies for mechanics and other positions systemwide.

Employees will be offered other jobs at other facilities.

Kirk said that the best case scenario is that 222 people from the maintenance facility will lose their jobs entirely. But, he said, he  expects the number of those laid off to be higher because many workers may not want to be transferred. A total of 167 employees at the Alliance Airport facility took the airline’s early-out option.

Kirk said that while American Airlines will close its maintenance facility at Alliance Airport on December 15, its engine facility, a joint project with Rolls Royce, will stay open, leaving 475 jobs in place.  “They’re going to be able to accommodate about 100 folks over there, but we’ve got a little over 700 getting hit. so, there are still going to be a lot of folks that won’t have a place to go,” said TWU Local 567 president Larry Pike.

In addition to Alliance Airport, American Airlines also sent out layoff notices to workers at its line station at DFW International Airport. TWU Local 565 president Gary Peterson said that 100 mechanics at the line station received their layoff notices on Thursday morning. Because of low seniority, he expects that 66 mechanics will lose their jobs and will not be able to transfer to other facilities.

A total of 72 employees at the DFW Airport line station took the early-out option.

American Airlines is slashing its maintenance costs as it tries to emerge from bankruptcy. The carrier had been the lone holdout, still doing all of its maintenance in-house. But now, that is changing. Like all the other airlines, American Airlines is hiring outside firms to conduct some maintenance of its aircraft.

American spokesman Bruce Hicks says the airline understands this is a difficult process.  But he says the workforce cut, with options to move workers to other cities, is much less drastic than originally forecast.  And when all options are exercised as few as 300 people might be forced out of work.  The unions don’t see it that way.

“Some of our guys can’t afford to go to a New York, LA, Miami, Chicago, these high cost of living cities where these vacancies exist,” said Peterson.

“We’re talking about hiring pilots and flight attendants,” said Kirk, noting that the action was expected, but disappointing. “While we’re maintaining pilot and flight attendant jobs, we’re sending high-value maintenance jobs to Hong Kong.”

The latest layoff announcements come one day after American Airlines CEO Tom Horton told employees that the company plans to hire 2,500 pilots over the next five years. Last week, Horton also announced that American Airlines will hire 1,500 new flight attendants in the next year. Horton said that they would need to add employees as the airline continues to grow.

The pilots union, flight attendants unions and the TWU all favor an American Airlines merger with US Airways. The two companies are now sharing financial information as management and others consider that option. The three groups have already agreed to a tentative labor agreement with US Airways, should that airline takeover American Airlines.

The Reduction in Force notification letters will be arriving to employees through Monday.  On Tuesday workers will get a week to begin making choices on options, whether to stay, accept reassignment, move, or get let go.   Final numbers won’t be known until then.

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