Airline is cutting 1,706 workers



Airline is cutting 1,706 workers
CHARLOTTE (Charlotte Observer) - US Airways said Friday it will lay off an additional 1,706 workers by November, including 75 in Charlotte.
The airline also said it will delay a court hearing on dissolving labor contracts of the two unions that have not agreed to new contracts with pay and benefit cuts.
The company struck a tentative deal Friday with the Communications Workers of America, and will allow mechanics in the International Association of Machinists to vote again on the proposal they rejected last week.
The layoffs would bring US Airways'' total employment in Charlotte, its busiest hub, to about 7,000 or less, down from 8,800 a year ago. The worker cuts have drained more than an estimated $100 million of purchasing power from the Charlotte economy.
The layoffs announced Friday will affect 487 flight attendants, 423 mechanics, 341 airport gate and ticket agents (96 of them part-time), 205 fleet service workers (including 22 part-timers) and 250 pilots. The airline had previously announced 11,000 layoffs since Sept. 11.
It is unclear how many flight attendants will involuntarily lose their jobs, because some may take voluntary or temporary furloughs, said Steve Hearn, president of the Charlotte local of the Association of Flight Attendants.
Also, the airline has not specified how many reservations agents will be affected.
Charlotte will lose 75 mechanic jobs, but will gain 35 part-time fleet service workers and 14 part-time airport agents. The impact of the layoffs on the number of pilots and flight attendants in Charlotte has not been determined.
Charlotte''s gains in fleet-service workers and airport agents reflect the decrease from 10 to eight banks or clusters of flights at the hub. Because each bank will have more flights, more workers will be required.
The tentative deal with the CWA meets the airline''s goal to cut $70 million from its annual expenses for ticket, gate and reservations agents.
CWA negotiator James Root said the proposed deal maintains a top scale salary of $20.05 per hour, but cuts elsewhere. Annual sick days fall to five from 12, and workers give up two paid holidays and 25 percent of vacation pay.
It''s a bitter pill to swallow, because we feel like we didn''t contribute to the airline''s problems, Root said. Because of poor management in the past, they have asked us to pitch in and bail them out.
Workers will have until Sept. 17th to vote on the proposed deal.
Meanwhile, IAM mechanics will vote again Sept. 17 on the proposal they rejected last week.
IAM spokesman Joe Tiberi said many mechanics believed Bankruptcy Court Judge Stephen Mitchell could improve the proposed contract, when, in fact, his only options were to uphold the existing contract or to cancel it.
Tiberi said confusion over that point may have affected the vote. As a result, he said, the airline asked the IAM whether it could put the proposal up for a vote again, after making sure mechanics understood that rejecting it meant possibly dissolving the contract.
The airline said it will wait until after Sept. 17 to see the results from both the CWA and IAM before deciding whether to ask the judge to dissolve contracts.
The seventh-largest airline has been operating under bankruptcy court protection since Aug. 11. It is seeking to cut annual costs by $1.3 billion, including $840 million in labor cost reductions.
The planned layoffs disturb Bill Wise, president of Charlotte IAM Local 1725, which represents 1,767 mechanics and related workers.
It disappoints me to see that the airline has chosen a path of shrinking to profitability, Wise said. It goes directly against what the last CEO we had was saying, that we had to grow because shrinking to profitability was not an option.