American Airlines to lay off 443
By: D. Ray Tuttle
The Journal RecordOctober 5, 2012
TULSA – American Airlines will lay off 300 mechanics and 143 fleet service clerks beginning this month, said Sam Cirri, president of Transport Workers Union Local 514 in Tulsa, on Friday.
“We want everybody to know that the Transport Workers Union did what we could to reduce the numbers,” Cirri said. “We wanted to make sure American maintained a presence in Tulsa.”
AMR Corp., the parent company of American Airlines, filed for bankruptcy on Nov. 29. Then, in February, the airline announced that it needed to save $1.1 billion in labor costs and would slash 2,700 jobs from its Maintenance and Engineering Base at Tulsa International Airport.
The total number of layoffs, 443, is a far cry from the 2,700 employees American Airlines said it would lay off this year as the company battled through bankruptcy. AMR executives originally demanded 8,650 systemwide job cuts.
“The concern with bankruptcy was that American would be looking at closing the doors in Tulsa,” Cirri said. “We wanted to do everything we could to make sure the doors stayed open – because once they closed, they would never open again.”
Local 514 negotiators began to whittle away at the number of layoffs. After lengthy discussions and bargaining by TWU 514, the number of mechanics and related workers who might be laid off in the company’s restructuring was reduced to 1,300.
“Then the early outs and people who have left since January brought that down to the 443 total,” Cirri said. “We will do what we can to help these folks find other work.”
Now, about 300 mechanics could move into other positions, leaving 143 workers who will have to relocate or hit the streets looking for new work. Cirri said he was unclear of the numbers because Tulsa workers will be competing with TWU members across the country for 283 open slots. Any worker taking one of those positions, however, will have to take a $5-an-hour pay cut.
Fleet service clerks will begin getting notices this month. The 300 mechanics will be alerted in two rounds beginning on Oct. 22 and the second round on Nov. 13. Their last day will be Nov. 19.
The reduction in layoffs was achieved by Local 514 officials correcting the company’s plans after calculating the effects of the early retirements, Cirri said, in accordance with an agreement reached in bankruptcy.
“We hate to experience even one layoff because we know that impacts one of our members and their family,” Cirri said. “But the company originally sought to put over 2,700 of our members on the street, as well as outsource the bulk of the work we perform, as part of the plan it presented to the bankruptcy court.”
Cirri said reasons TWU 514 was able to reduce the number of layoffs in Tulsa include the following:
• Contractual provisions requiring that 65 percent of AA aircraft maintenance be performed in-house.
• Early-out retirement opportunities offered through the consensual agreement reached in bankruptcy.
• Persuading the company to recalculate layoffs based on the bargaining history of the consensual agreement.
• Developing acceptable proposals to keep more work in-house.
Last summer, when American Airlines filed a motion in bankruptcy court to abrogate its contract with TWU, it sought to replicate agreements reached by other carriers in bankruptcy, in which the sort of heavy overhaul work performed in Tulsa was either outsourced or reduced, Cirri said.
If the plans had been implemented, a much larger portion of American’s maintenance would have been outsourced, resulting in the layoff of 2,700 TWU members in Tulsa.
The Tulsa community is left in good shape, Cirri said.
“Local 514 still has a lot of work to do to help these folks get through these layoffs,” Cirri said. “Whether they relocate or hit the street, we will be there for them.”
In Tulsa, about 600 mechanics and related employees and about 60 facility maintenance workers signed up for early retirement. Facility maintenance workers care for the facility in non-aircraft jobs. Sixty stores and clerks workers signed up, according to the Local 514 website. Members of TWU taking early retirement could walk away with as much as a $39,000 severance deal.