By Michael Bologna
Sept. 27 -United Airlines and the International Association of Machinists have reached three tentative agreements promising labor peace for 28,000 airline employees through the start of 2018, company and union sources announced Sept. 26.
The three agreements, reached with the assistance of federal mediators, would establish wage and benefits terms for United employees in the classifications of fleet service, public contact/passenger service and storekeeper. The agreements would cover all company employees in those categories working for United and its Continental Airlines, Continental Micronesia and MileagePlus subsidiaries.
The various operating subsidiaries are controlled by Chicago-based United Continental Holdings Inc., which was formed following the 2010 merger of United Airlines and Continental Airlines. The agreements take another step toward the holding company's goal of harmonizing the bargaining units from the operating subsidiaries.
The announcement comes six months after a previous tentative agreement was defeated by rank-and-file United employees . IAM officials issued a statement March 30 saying their members had “emphatically rejected’’ the proposed three-year collective bargaining agreements, but did not release full details of the vote.
Rich Delaney, president of IAM District 141, expressed broad optimism about the current proposal. The IAM's full negotiating committee is recommending ratification. The union expects the ratification process to be completed by Nov. 1.
“These proposed contracts address the needs of the IAM membership at United Airlines,’’ Delaney said in a statement. “It places IAM-represented workers at the top of the industry in the areas that the membership said were most important: wages, job security, pension benefits and health insurance.’’
The tentative contracts would establish wages, benefits and terms of employment from the date of signing to the amendable date of Dec. 31, 2017. The agreements contain a special provision that would provide a wage increase to take effect Jan. 15, 2018, if the union and the company fail to settle on a new contract by that date.
IAM spokesman James Carlson said the three contracts would replace and harmonize at least seven previous agreements between the parent company and the various bargaining units that existed when United and Continental operated as separate airlines. As a result, Carlson said comparisons in terms of wage rates are difficult to express. He did say, however, that some IAM-represented workers would receive wage increases of up to 55 percent.
A contract highlights document released by the union points to an increase in base wages for the affected employees, effective on the date of signing. Top base wages for workers in the fleet service, customer service and storekeeper categories would be pegged at $24 per hour. Reservations employees would see their base wages nudged to $23.75 per hour.
IAM members would see their base wages boosted four times over the course of the agreements, bringing fleet service, customer service and storekeeper categories up to $26.64 per hour. Reservation employees would achieve base wages of $26.36 by the end of the agreement. IAM noted that workers would be entitled to additional base pay of up to $3 per hour linked to longevity, premium positions and differentials.
Additional features of the agreements include:
• Bonuses: Full-time employees would qualify for a signing bonus of $105 per year of service, capped at 20 years. Part-time employees would receive a signing bonus of $52.50 per year of service, capped at 20 years.
• Job Security: The contract contains provisions ensuring that 96 percent of IAM-represented workers could not be laid off because of outsourcing.
• Overtime: United employees would qualify for time-and-a-half pay for hours worked beyond eight hours in a 24-hour period. Double-time pay would commence if an employee worked past 12 hours in a 24-hour period.
• Holiday Pay: United employees would qualify for double-time-and-a-half for hours scheduled on holidays.
• Vacation: United employees would top out at six weeks of vacation after 29 years of service.
• Health Insurance: The contract offers more than 40 different plans, featuring monthly out-of-pocket premium contributions beginning at $10.
• Dental Insurance: United would pay 80 percent of all costs under the dental plan.
The tentative contract does not cover all of United's IAM-represented employees. The union said it is still engaged in bargaining with the airline on behalf of approximately 2,000 maintenance instructors, fleet technical instructors, food service workers and security officers.
United issued a statement applauding the agreement and the work of the negotiating teams. The company described the unified agreements affecting fleet service, public contact/passenger service and storekeeper classifications as an important chapter in its efforts to harmonize operations.
“Bringing our employees together through joint agreements represents another important step forward for United Airlines,’’ said Mike Bonds, United's executive vice president of human resources and labor relations.
The National Mediation Board acknowledged the tentative agreement in a statement. The negotiations were assisted by NMB mediators Michael Kelliher and Andy Nordgren. Senior mediator Patricia Sims and chairman Linda Puchala also participated.
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